Video: Meet the Brazilian woman whose life was just changed by the Supreme Court DOMA ruling

June 26, 2013

In 2011, an American English teacher living in Rio de Janeiro, named Alison Medina, married the love of her life, Michele Castro, who is Brazilian.

The two had met in Medina's English class, where Castro was a student. Though at first skeptical of Medina's stereotypically American earnestness, Castro warmed to her and eventually proposed marriage. Civil unions are legal in Brazil, which may also be on the path to full marriage rights. Castro, in the above video by Global Post, which reported the couple's story, calls their wedding "the most beautiful day I've ever lived."

They decided to move to the United States together. For most marriages between an American and a non-American, this is a simple matter. But there was a problem: the Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, says that U.S. federal law can only recognize marriage as between a man and a woman. This means that U.S. Customs Control was legally forbidden from recognizing Medina and Castro's marriage.

If Medina were straight and had married a man, her husband could have almost certainly moved to the United States with her and gotten status as a legal permanent resident. That's just a benefit that comes with your U.S. citizenship. But because Medina is gay, her spouse had to remain in Brazil. The two were kept thousands of miles apart.

But that appears to have just changed. The Supreme Court's ruling Wednesday struck down DOMA, declaring that federal law cannot restrict marriage as between a man and a woman.

One widely anticipated implication of this ruling is for bi-national couples like Medina and Castro. Barring a decision by the Obama administration to argue that immigration rules are exempt from the Supreme Court's ruling – which would be extremely surprising, given both Obama's stance on the issue and the harm this would do to pending immigration reform legislation – the United States is expected to now permit same-sex spouses like Castro to join their American counterparts here in the U.S.

Medina and Castro actually saw this coming. Though they hoped Castro might be able to stay in the United States on a tourist visa until the Supreme Court ruled on DOMA (she wasn't), the couple hoped that the court's ruling would dismantle DOMA and allow them to reunite.

"Our relationship is worth it because it's love," Castro said of the long-distance struggle to reunite with her spouse in the United States. "The most complete love I've ever experienced." Now, barring an unforeseen or unexpected complication, she'll be able to come to America.

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Max Fisher | June 26, 2013