SANTA CLARA, California - She waited over 10 years and traveled almost 10,000 miles for this moment.
At Santa Clara’s Freedom Hall, Maria Cecilia Limson Gahuman, or Chela—the first lesbian to receive a same-sex fiancé visa from the US Embassy in Manila—exercised her new freedom to marry the woman she loves.
Same-sex marriage isn’t legal in the Philippines but it is in some parts of the US, thanks to the Supreme Court ruling last June.
Despite living in the Philippines, it meant Gahuman could be petitioned as a fiancé by her US citizen partner Carla Antonio, who serves in the US Navy.
For more than a decade, they endured a long distance relationship, and it wasn’t easy.
“I was ready to just go back to the Philippines to be with her,” Antonio said.
“She wanted to quit the US Navy, but I always keep on reminding her just to keep on praying,” Gahuman said.
But once they learned they could be legally wed in America, they immediately filed the fiancé petition.
“I called her right away and told her let's gather all the paperwork,” Antonio said.
“I was shocked,” Gahuman said.
The visa was approved within three-and-a-half months. Gahuman got her visa in early December and flew to the US to walk down the aisle with Antonio on December 30.
The news about Antonio and Gahuman being the first lesbian couple to be granted fiancé visas in the Philippines made headlines.
Filipino Noel “Aeinghel” Amaro and US service member Robert Cotterman were the first gay couple to receive a fiancé visa.
in a statement, the US embassy in Manila said it wants gay Filipinos with American partners to be aware of new visa opportunities that are available now that the US recognizes same-sex marriage.
“If there is someone that you love and you have a real relationship, our advice is do not wait,” Atty. Aurora Vega-Buzon, Gahuman’s immigration lawyer said. “Gather your documents, talk to an attorney, and let's get that loved one here as soon as we can.”
After more than a decade of living and loving apart, Gahuman and Antonio now start their new life and the New Year together as newly-weds.