Filipina lesbian couple marries after years of deportation fears

By Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

August 19, 2014

PACIFICA, Calif. – 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.

Yesterday afternoon, 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, Jay, 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, or ICE, came to their door and placed Shirley under arrest because her request for asylum was denied.

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

And since the Supreme Court repealed the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA, Speier was able to legally marry Shirley and Jay.

Jay can now also legally file an immigration petition for Shirley.

“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 says the story of Jay and Shirley 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.

“Shirley and Jay and their two wonderful kids have been friends of ours for many years,” said Lewis. “We work together as we are working for families to have basic freedom and equality under the law.”

Jay and Shirley’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.” expressed Jashley.

“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.

Jay and Shirley offer these words of hope to all other gay and lesbian couples who are also fighting for marriage and immigration equality.

“Don’t lose hope,” said Jay. “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 Shirley. “So thank God for everything that we were allowed to marry the person we love.”

You can contact Rommel Conclara at or you can follow him on Twitter @rommelconclara for more information.

2 Comments on this post.

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  • Juan
    20 August 2014 at 4:06 am - Reply

    If you are illegal, the easiest way to get a green card, marry a citizen..If you are male, illegal, pa-chupa kana sa bakla, baka sakali. If you are female illegal, maki-pag pumpiang kana sa tomboy, baka sakali.

  • Kuya
    21 August 2014 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    Obama should work on shortening the waiting period for those who have petition. Then the Undocumented should be deported but should be given priority in applying entry their respective country. It’s a win win situation for both sides…