Catriona Dowling got the news early Wednesday from a friend by text message. Her wife, Cathy Davis, heard it shouted by a neighbor upon returning from taking their children to an ESL summer school program.

As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Davis finally can secure a green card. Government bureaucracy can no longer threaten to pull the Boulder family apart.

"We're absolutely over the moon," said Dowling, 55. "We are really delighted with the news."

Although both women grew up just a few miles apart in Ireland, they did not meet until 2006, while on a climbing vacation in Nepal. Dowling, by that time already was a naturalized U.S. citizen living in Boulder. She and Davis, now 42, began plotting to make a life together, and have since adopted three children: Mardoche, 11, Angelina, 9, both from Haiti, and a son, Cian, 6, from Guatemala.

But as long as DOMA remained law in the United States, Davis' application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Denver for a green card could not be granted, because the federal government would not recognize the marriage they obtained last year in Iowa.

Their cause has been supported by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, and by Project DOMA, a campaign launched in 2010 by a group of married binational couples working with attorneys Lavi Soloway and Noemi Masliah. The lawyers are founders of Immigration Equality and partners in the firm Masliah & Soloway of New York and Los Angeles.

Despite such considerable assistance, the women were making no assumptions about their family's fate -- prior to Wednesday's ruling.

"You look at how society changes, and you're looking at how the general attitudes toward gay marriage have changed dramatically in the last couple of years," Dowling said. "So you have to think it had to go our way.

"...But there were no guarantees. We were on pins and needles. Until we heard the news this morning, it was definitely not a sure thing."

'Tremendous support'

Cathy Davis and Catriona Dowling pose for a portrait with their kids, Angelina, 9, Mardoche, 11, and Cian, 6, in their home in Boulder. on June 25, 2013.
Cathy Davis and Catriona Dowling pose for a portrait with their kids, Angelina, 9, Mardoche, 11, and Cian, 6, in their home in Boulder. on June 25, 2013. (THE DENVER POST | Grant Hindsley)

Dowling and Davis had their green card interview in Denver on Jan. 9. Polis helped ensure that a decision on Davis' application would be held in abeyance until the DOMA case was decided.

With the 5-4 ruling Wednesday morning, the women, their lawyer and Polis were all hopeful that they would receive word of Davis' green card approval by the close of the business day.

"They are already married, and so this affects them immediately," Polis said. "There is now a path for them to be able to remain with their children, and not have to choose between their relationship and their country."

"They've given us tremendous support since 2007," Dowling said of Polis and his staff. "At times we felt like we didn't have any place to turn. We are so grateful to them, and we will always be grateful to them, for that."

Soloway, their attorney said, "Every day that the family-based immigration provisions are not applied equally, beginning at 10 a.m., is a violation of their constitutional rights. The harm that has been caused to these families, by order of the Supreme Court, has to end today. There should be no foot dragging. It should be swift."

Still waiting

But late Wednesday afternoon, Dowling learned from Polis' office that Citizenship and Immigration Services would not be approving Davis's green card yet, pending that office receiving further guidance from the Department of Homeland Security.

"It's not a matter of if, it's just a matter of when," Dowling said. "But the question is: Why do they need this 'guidance?'

Even with a historic court victory in hand, the couple's wait for equal treatment in the eyes of the law continued for another day.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Charlie Brennan at 303-473-1327 or brennanc@dailycamera.com.