2013 U.S. Embassy News and Events
U.S. Embassy Manila: First Visa Issued to Same Sex Couple
On December 2, 2013, the United States Embassy in the Philippines issued its first fiancé visa to a same-sex couple. Although same-sex marriage is not yet recognized in the Philippines, gay Americans are now able to petition for family-based visas on behalf of their Filipino spouses, fiancés, and their children.
This change comes months after a momentous decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, which struck down the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Overturning DOMA signifies that the U.S. federal government must extend all federal rights and privileges of marriage to any married couple, regardless of sexual orientation. Currently, gay couples can marry in 16 of 50 American states, and the nation’s capital.
This extension of rights includes immigration benefits. Noel “Aeinghel” Amaro and Robert Cotterman were the first gay couple in the Philippines to receive a fiancé visa. Cotterman serves in the U.S. military and is scheduled to return from a tour in Afghanistan in January 2014. The two met online and will be married January 2014 in the United States.
Maria Cecilia Limson Gahuman and Maria Carla Antonio also received a fiancé visa. The couple met through a mutual friend over a decade ago. Because Maria Limson Gahuman is Filipina, and Maria Antonia is American, however, there was no way for the couple to be together. With their fiancé visa, the couple will transition their their ten-year relationship from long-distance to marriage in California on December 30, 2013.
Advancing gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender equality has been one of President Obama’s top priorities. Upon the first issuance of a same-sex visa in London, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that one of the “most important exports by far is America’s belief in the equality of all people.” He noted that “the State Department, which has always been at the forefront of equality in the federal government . . . is tearing down an unjust and an unfair barrier that for too long stood in the way of same-sex families being able to travel as a family to the United States.”
In light of these changes, the American Embassy wants to educate gay Filipinos about new visa opportunities. Filipinos in same-sex relationships with Americans are encouraged to view the Visas section of the Embassy website at manila.usembassy.gov for more information.