Pinay lesbian couple marries despite deportation fear

By Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Aug 20 2014 01:56 PM | Updated as of Aug 20 2014 09:56 PM

PACIFICA, California - The Pinay lesbian couple, who has become the face in the fight for marriage and immigration rights for the LGBT community, finally came full circle in their advocacy.

With their 18-year-old twin boys and in front of family and friends, Jay Mercado and Shirley Tan finally tied the knot.

Their wedding was officiated by Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a staunch supporter of equal rights for the LGBT community.

This week, Mercado, a U.S. citizen, plans to file an immigration petition for Shirley.

It was more than five years ago when the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), came to their door and placed Tan under arrest because her request for asylum was denied.

With the help of Speier and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, Tan was able to stay with Mercado and their twin sons through a special humanitarian legislation.

Since the Supreme Court repealed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Speier was able to legally marry Tan and Mercado.

“I think for any couple where they are bi-nationals, that this is very hopeful, because the United States government has now said that there is a pathway to getting a green card, and to remain in this country, and actually become a citizen if you want,” said Speier. “I hope someday to be at the swearing in ceremony when Shirley becomes a U.S. citizen.”

Married couple Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis of Marriage Equality USA said the story of Mercado and Tan serves as an inspiration to other bi-national couples dealing with immigration issues.

“We tell stories just like Jay and Shirley to people who aren’t familiar with the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage – that includes all the love we see right now in this living room and it also includes the legal right to be together as a family.” said Gaffney.

Mercado and Tan's twin boys, Jashley and Joriene, have been advocating for equal rights with their parents since they were young.

“It’s truly an amazing day to finally see our parents get recognized for their marriage,” Jashley said.

“It’s great to see equality and justice finally served, and I’m so happy for my parents, and I can’t wait to see what will happen in the future with all of us,” said Joriene.

Mercado and Tan offered words of hope to all other gay and lesbian couples who are also fighting for marriage and immigration equality.

“Don’t lose hope,” said Mercado. “There’s hope for everyone and now that this has come to the United States, that DOMA has been repealed, then everyone can marry who they want to marry.”

“For 28 years our dreams came to fruition that we thought it would never happen,” added Tan. “So thank God for everything that we were allowed to marry the person we love.”

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