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Same-Sex Couples Struggle to Stay Together Despite U.S. Laws
by GetEQUAL and Out4Immigration
Monday Nov 26th, 2012 10:48 AM
How many more holidays must we go through apart? Will we have to celebrate our ten-year anniversary over the phone, as we celebrated our five-year anniversary? There is no reason for the United States to maintain these unjust laws other than bigotry, pure and simple. But we, as Americans, can choose to stand up and tell the government that we will no longer endure the pain and suffering being inflicted upon American citizens. It is time for comprehensive immigration reform that includes LGBT families so that we can truly be the land of the free.
Cats Over Couples – Gina and Katie

Over five years ago, Katie and I met through mutual friends. The connection was immediate, and we spent the next week learning everything we could about one another until she had to return back home to the United Kingdom. As I sat in my house in Sacramento, I felt a deep sense of devastation – it was impossible to comprehend that I might have met the love of my life, only to be kept apart by discriminatory laws. Neither of us had ever thought about – or even heard of – the unjust laws that binational same-sex couples face each day. But as we remained in contact with one another and as our relationship developed, it became crystal clear what hurdles couples face simply to be with the person they love.


Over the past five years, Katie and I have had more than our fair share of struggles. The lengths we’ve gone to in order to be together have been financially, mentally, and physically burdensome – and it’s often a mystery to our friends how we have managed to stay together when we’re only able to see each other a few times a year. We maintain that we will not let the law destroy our love – and we’ll do whatever we have to do in order to stand together.

Across the years, we’ve faced unemployment, depression, accidents, and other trauma – similar to other couples, but with the added stress of not being able to face those challenges together and to lean on one another.

Last year, we had finally had enough and decided that it was time for me to live in the UK on a visitor’s visa. I had never overstayed my welcome in the UK before and knew that our time together would be too short, but it was our only option. I quit my job, packed up my belongings, and prepared our two cats for the long travel abroad. Once I arrived in the UK, I was immediately stopped. After a series of very personal questions, I was told that I was too old to be traveling for any substantial length of time, and that I should be married with a house and children at home in America. Over the course of the next 12 hours, I was held in two different detention centers, my belongings were searched thoroughly, and my personal journal was read by multiple officials – simply because of who I love. I was refused entry to the country in order to see my spouse – though our two cats were welcomed in with no trouble.

We have tried everything possible to legally be together – a (denied) visa application in the UK, a short-term student visa application in the U.S., and everything else we can think of. Katie and I will never stop fighting for the justice and we and so many other binational same-sex couples deserve. We believe that, by sharing our story, more people will understand the hurdles we face – and the very clear solutions to those hurdles. So many couples like us live in fear and are forced to stay in the shadows – but we believe it is our responsibility to speak up for those who have not yet found their voice.

How many more holidays must we go through apart? Will we have to celebrate our ten-year anniversary over the phone, as we celebrated our five-year anniversary? There is no reason for the United States to maintain these unjust laws other than bigotry, pure and simple. But we, as Americans, can choose to stand up and tell the government that we will no longer endure the pain and suffering being inflicted upon American citizens. It is time for comprehensive immigration reform that includes LGBT families so that we can truly be the land of the free.

§SF Couple Celebrates Thanksgiving Even With Impending Separation
by GetEQUAL and Out4Immigration Monday Nov 26th, 2012 10:37 AM
Our story is one of true love – we’ll fight for our right to love one another and build a life together, even while the government fights to keep us apart. Our days together are numbered, but all we can do is fight with all we have – we have no other options. Though I was born and raised in the land of the free and the home of the brave, I now know what it is like to be considered a second-class citizen. We’re calling on the United States to strike down the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and to ensure that LGBT families are included in comprehensive immigration reform so that we can all be equal under the law and dare to dream our dreams.

Early in 2011, I was doubting whether I would ever meet Mr. Right. I was 47 at the time, and decided to simply give up after years of trying, and just enjoy life as best I could and without fulfilling my dream of a family of my own.

About a month later, I went out with a few of my best friends for dinner and dancing. I was minding my own business when I looked up and saw the most beautiful smile light up across the room as my eyes accidentally locked with a stranger’s. I assumed he was looking at someone else, so I just kept dancing with my friends – until they began insisting that he was looking at me. My friend pushed me toward him, we introduced ourselves, danced a bit, and exchanged email addresses. I couldn’t hear a word he said over the music, but I didn’t need to.

Within a few days, we went out on our first date and – even with a language barrier – we knew from that moment that we would be together forever. He was in California to hone his skills in journalism and learn English – and, though he had a six-month tourist visa – he had only intended to stay for three months. At the end of those three months, he called up his family, let them know he had fallen in love, and decided to stay with me for the subsequent three months. It was truly love at first sight.


As our relationship grew, we began to more fully understand the scope of our situation – as a binational same-sex couple, we had no way to be together in the United States and, as a small business owner with aging parents, it would be hard for me to go to Brazil. He went back to Brazil for almost three months in order to apply for a student visa – while we waited to hear word about whether we would ever be able to see one another again. It was one of the worst days of my life when I took him to the airport – and had to simply hope that we would see each other soon.

After much interrogation in Brazil, Mauricio was granted a student visa. On November 22, 2011, Mauricio came back to the U.S. and we celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas at my mother’s house. It was so wonderful to be together again – though we know that our time together carries with it an expiration date.

We will celebrate the holidays this year together as a family as we dare to let ourselves dream of the family we want to become. We have decided on a date for our marriage ceremony, invited our friends and family to join us, and know that – one day – we want to adopt a child together to expand our family and share our love. Even as we dare to dream those dreams, we know that reality means the government will not recognize our relationship, leaving the country is not an option, and our life hangs in the balance each day. We can’t take the real and concrete steps to make our dreams a reality so long as our life together is at the mercy of the U.S. government.

Our story is one of true love – we’ll fight for our right to love one another and build a life together, even while the government fights to keep us apart. Our days together are numbered, but all we can do is fight with all we have – we have no other options. Though I was born and raised in the land of the free and the home of the brave, I now know what it is like to be considered a second-class citizen. We’re calling on the United States to strike down the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and to ensure that LGBT families are included in comprehensive immigration reform so that we can all be equal under the law and dare to dream our dreams.

Are you a same sex binational couple?  Do you have families / friends affected by this issue?  Please contact us at http://bit.ly/O4ICountMeIn if you are interested in sharing your story.
§Grandmother Separated From Family Calls on Congress to Find Solution
by GetEQUAL and Out4Immigration Monday Nov 26th, 2012 10:51 AM
I’m not there for birthdays, Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas morning deliveries from Santa Claus, Easter egg hunts, or Mother’s Day lunches. I’ll miss my grandsons reveling in their Thanksgiving meal today, and I won’t be able to cook them the secret family sugar cookie recipe. For yet another year, I can’t watch them open the presents I sent for them next month for Christmas. I’ve lost years of those holiday memories and I will never get them back. I have been married to my soul mate for over eight years now, and have been living in exile for seven them. I will continue to miss years of holiday celebrations unless DOMA is repealed or LGBT-inclusive comprehensive immigration reform is passed. I deserve to see my grandsons grow up – I deserve to be equal.

Sugar Cookies and Equality – Tammy and Sally

Early in 2003, I was coming out of an emotionally abusive, 24-year marriage to a man. Searching for support online, I finally found a message board that not only gave me an outlet for healing after this abuse, but also an outlet to explore emerging questions I was having about my sexual orientation. I connected with one of the forum members, Sally, immediately – finding much in common in our pasts, but also finding much in common in the futures we were creating for ourselves. Forum messages progressed to emails and instant messages before we knew it and, over the course of many months, it seemed as though our friendship had grown to much more.

Sally lived in England and I lived in Texas – presenting a logistical challenge that I had never imagined. Later that year, I traveled to England to see if what we felt was a passing friendship or something deeper. We spent five days together that were heaven on earth – before reality came crashing down around us. When she drove me to the airport at the end of those five days, we weren’t sure if we would ever see each other again. I traveled back to Texas and began exploring what steps I would need to take in order for us to be together.

  

I sold my business, got a more flexible job, and we began traveling back and forth between the U.K. and the U.S. We ran up thousands of dollars in phone bills and plane tickets before deciding to get legally married in Canada with the hopes of helping our situation. I proposed to her on a trip to Washington State and we married in Toronto in July 2004. We honeymooned in Mexico and were forced to again go our separate ways, hoping that we would soon be able to be together permanently.

Oh, now naïve we were in those days! We soon learned that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits the government from recognizing our marriage or allowing me to sponsor Sally for immigration purposes. We were grasping at straws at that point, and started to find other couples online who were dealing with similar situations – a bittersweet discovery, to be sure.

We finally realized that the only way for us to live together as a married couple would be for me to move to the U.K. I was ultimately granted a visa under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme and left behind my entire life – including my two daughters, extended family, and friends – to start over. Never in a million years did I think that, in 2012, I would still be living in England.

Eight years ago, I assumed that passage of the Uniting American Families Act would be a sure thing once people saw the injustice of the U.S. immigration system, and that we would soon be able to move back to the U.S. Though I’ve rebuilt my career in England and found a place that accepts me for who I am, the same cannot be said for my home country.

My older daughter has since married and has two beautiful boys – my two grandsons. My younger daughter has struggled financially – I’ve been forced to care for her from across an ocean, tearing my heart apart each day. We’re occasionally able to go back to the U.S. for short visits, but do so rarely because Sally is so fearful of going through immigration after being detained once before. As an American citizen, I’m embarrassed at the way my country treats me, but horrified by how my country treats my wife.

My grandchildren, now 3 ½ and 20 months, only really know me by voice and through the internet. I’m not able to be a proper grandmother to them, nor can I support the rest of my family as I wish. Two years ago, my father committed suicide – because of DOMA, I wasn’t there to support my brother as we grieved our father because my government chooses to discriminate against me.

I’m not there for birthdays, Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas morning deliveries from Santa Claus, Easter egg hunts, or Mother’s Day lunches. I’ll miss my grandsons reveling in their Thanksgiving meal today, and I won’t be able to cook them the secret family sugar cookie recipe. For yet another year, I can’t watch them open the presents I sent for them next month for Christmas. I’ve lost years of those holiday memories and I will never get them back. I have been married to my soul mate for over eight years now, and have been living in exile for seven them. I will continue to miss years of holiday celebrations unless DOMA is repealed or LGBT-inclusive comprehensive immigration reform is passed. I deserve to see my grandsons grow up – I deserve to be equal

Are you a same sex binational couple?  Do you have families / friends affected by this issue?  Please contact us at http://bit.ly/O4ICountMeIn if you are interested in sharing your story.
§Texas Man Separated From Husband Over Holidays by U.S. Law
by GetEQUAL and Out4Immigration Monday Nov 26th, 2012 10:54 AM
Despite being legally married in the state of Massachusetts, we cannot apply for a spousal visa so that Stuart and I can build a life together here in the United States. No marriage should have to endure this kind of stress and separation simply because of a discriminatory law. We’re simply asking for a chance to be together and to share the same civil rights that our friends, neighbors, and family enjoy. Holidays are especially difficult — it’s hard to decorate the house or enjoy the season when I’m longing for the day I can wake up early on a holiday morning to share a cup of coffee with my husband. Until the day that we truly see equal protection under the law for all, I’m left holding that cold cup of coffee alone — longing for the warm and loving home that my husband and I deserve.

Married But Separated – Art and Stuart

I am a music teacher in San Antonio, Texas, and have spent much of my life developing a mastery of the piano, the organ, and the voice.  I also love computers and online social networks, which is where I ultimately met my [now] husband, Stuart Metcalfe(-LeSieur).

Three years ago, I found Facebook — and thus a limitless opportunity to meet all sorts of people from all over the world. I was just coming out as a gay man and found the freedom of Facebook to be an incredibly powerful way to explore my emerging identity. As I waded through new Facebook friends, one in particular caught my attention — Stuart. I watched a video he had posted to Facebook — complete with charming British accent, which I immediately recognized after having been stationed in the United Kingdom while in the military. He was putting himself down for how he looked on camera, and I wrote back to affirm how great the video was — beginning an ongoing conversation of texts, chats, emails, and eventually Skype.

The first time we Skyped, I was so nervous and flustered that the only thing I could manage to get out was, “Hi! I like Monty Python!” Stuart was patient with me, suggesting that I might want to check out some more updated forms of British humor — and thus we began a friendship based in humor and deep conversations about nearly everything under the sun. As I went through a painful divorce that summer, Stuart was one of my biggest emotional supports — and my family soon welcomed him into the fold through Skype sessions of their own.


We continued to navigate our emerging relationship and tried to cobble together the money to see and talk with one another across the distance. I had never thought about the lengths that binational same-sex couples go to in order to be with one another, and the stress that adds to new — and even seasoned — relationships. We finally uttered the “L” word to one another — declaring our love even as Stuart was traveling in Egypt and I was in South Texas. When Stuart visited me in San Antonio soon thereafter, I dropped to one knee and asked him to marry me. He said yes, and we spent the next 19 months trying to figure out how to navigate the process of getting married in the United States and building a life here with my children.

My parents gave their blessing whole-heartedly and we married in my hometown in Massachusetts by a long-time friend of the family. Stuart can only visit the U.S. twice a year for about three weeks at a time, and we have no mechanism for him to move here permanently as long as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is in place. His visits here require massive overtime work from him in order to afford each trip and to build up vacation days to spend with me. Those visits are met with great anticipation but, even with the joy of his arrival, there is always a looming sadness that the clock is ticking until his departure. Each time I drop him off at the airport, it’s like having my entire being ripped out of my body. Losing my spouse for such long periods of time tears me apart spiritually and emotionally — our home runs so beautifully when our children have two loving fathers physically at home, but I become overwhelmed when I return again to being a single father.

Despite being legally married in the state of Massachusetts, we cannot apply for a spousal visa so that Stuart and I can build a life together here in the United States. No marriage should have to endure this kind of stress and separation simply because of a discriminatory law. We’re simply asking for a chance to be together and to share the same civil rights that our friends, neighbors, and family enjoy. Holidays are especially difficult — it’s hard to decorate the house or enjoy the season when I’m longing for the day I can wake up early on a holiday morning to share a cup of coffee with my husband. Until the day that we truly see equal protection under the law for all, I’m left holding that cold cup of coffee alone — longing for the warm and loving home that my husband and I deserve.

§Peace Corps Volunteer Asks Congress to Pass Inclusive Immigration Reform
by GetEQUAL and Out4Immigration Wednesday Nov 28th, 2012 12:45 PM
After Giving Two Years of His Life to the Peace Corps, Former Volunteer Wants to Spend Rest of His Life with Ecuadorian Partner

Ever since I was a kid, the holidays were a blur of good food, family, and friends. Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas were always reminders to be thankful for what we had and share with those we love. This year, Raul and I have much for which to be grateful. For the first time since 2009, we will be sharing Christmas together. After more than a year of living in different countries, we now live under the same roof, sharing the same meals, and making friends in a new city and country—the United Kingdom, our new home.

Raul and I first met during my service as a Peace Corps volunteer in Southern Ecuador. I was working as a social worker in a rural highland community. I still remember getting that first flirtatious text message, thinking “he’s surely exaggerating his positive qualities”. Fortunately, he wasn’t! Raul really is the sweet, caring, and handsome man he said he was. After some initial hesitation on my part, we started a relationship that continues to this day, nearly three years later. For the rest of my time in the Peace Corps, Raul and I were nearly inseparable. He would often visit me and my host family in the parish where I lived. We would travel Ecuador together on vacations, visiting friends and his family on the coast.



As my service experience drew to a close in mid-2010, we started to explore our options. We both wanted Raul to meet my family over the holidays as I’d had the chance to visit his on many occasions. Sadly, Raul’s application for a visitor’s visa to the US was denied, in part because he did not have enough assets to convince the immigration officer of his return to Ecuador and in part because he was honest about our relationship during his interview. I still remember the day Raul called me with the bad news. He was devastated, and there was nothing I could do to comfort him that day. I promised I would save up and return to Ecuador if he could not see my family for the holidays.

I returned to Ecuador at the beginning of 2011 to work as a field consultant with a social enterprise initiative, earning just $200 per month. We also opened a small café/bar together in the hopes that it would improve his chances of eventually visiting my family in the US. During the next 8 months, the two of us worked hard at our day and night jobs. We were poor and tired, but at least we had each other. Acting on pro-bono advice from Lavi Soloway of the DOMA Project (www.domaproject.org) we prepared for Raul’s next visa application by securing invitations, bonds, and letters of support from family and government officials, including my Congressman at the time, Bruce Braley. We knew that chances were slim that Raul would be granted a visitor’s visa, but we had to try. My grandparents were going to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and it was the perfect way to meet my extended family. On what I would describe as one of the happiest days of my life, Raul’s application for a visitor’s visa was granted. It was just short of a miracle.

In August of 2011, Raul’s and my wish finally came true. He met my family and shared in the celebrations of my grandparents’ 50th anniversary. He was even included in the family photo! Raul’s visit allowed me to share with him my hometown, American football at my alma mater — Notre Dame – and the city of Chicago where I would ultimately spend the next year pursuing my Master’s degree in Psychology. As Raul’s departure drew near, anxiety soon settled in as we were left with few options. He could either overstay his visa, living in fear of deportation or return to Ecuador. For a number of reasons, we decided it would be best for Raul to return.

On our two year anniversary in December, I returned to Ecuador to celebrate our Civil Union in Ecuador. It was a modest celebration held in the house of one of Raul’s friends. While the circumstances were not what either of us envisioned for our marriage, we knew we needed a more formal recognition of our relationship. Following our short “mini-honeymoon” to the central Ecuadorian highlands, I returned to the US to celebrate Christmas with my family. It would be nine months before I would see Raul again.

Those nine months were some of the most difficult we have experienced. The loneliness was crushing at times. While I loved Chicago and my studies at the University of Chicago, my heart was elsewhere. Soon after my arrival, I eventually began exploring the possibility of PhD programs in the UK and Canada where I would be able to live together with Raul. As fortune would have it, my supervisor connected me with a researcher at the University of Birmingham. Faster than I ever expected, I was not only admitted but offered a generous studentship—not an easy feat in cash-strapped Europe.

This year, Raul and I will be sharing the holidays with our families from behind a computer screen, more than an ocean away. While online video calls are a reality for many Americans who find themselves overseas for the holidays, our life as exiles entails an additional burden: Raul remains stuck on the outside. I promised him I will not leave him again and I mean it.  For this reason, we’re joining with Out4Immigration and GetEQUAL to call on Congress to include provisions for exiled LGBT families like mine in Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Inclusive immigration reform would allow me to sponsor Raul for a green card and start our lives together in the US. It would mean that we would be free to spend the holidays with my family—something we have been unable to do to this day. There is no excuse for delay. Justice delayed is justice denied. The time to act is now.
§Daughter of U.S. Army Veteran Calls on Congress for Help
by GetEQUAL & Out4Immigration Thursday Nov 29th, 2012 9:54 AM
The United States recently celebrated Thanksgiving and, while I am giving thanks for many things, one of my greatest sorrows during this holiday season is that my loving partner, Julie, was not with me to celebrate this greatest of American family holidays. Julie is my family – my chosen family. But our laws in the U.S. dictate that, even though we could legally marry in New York State, I am unable to sponsor her for immigration as my spouse

The United States recently celebrated Thanksgiving and, while I am giving thanks for many things, one of my greatest sorrows during this holiday season is that my loving partner, Julie, was not with me to celebrate this greatest of American family holidays. Julie is my family – my chosen family. But our laws in the U.S. dictate that, even though we could legally marry in New York State, I am unable to sponsor her for immigration as my spouse.


It may seem rather cheesy to say we “met online” but, with technology as it is today, when a mutual friend introduced us to each other via email, we found we had a lot in common and became friends. We were email friends for two years before I met Julie in person during a business trip to Australia. And in that meeting, we confirmed that daily emails and weekly Skype visits had led us to more than simply friendship. We knew it would be hard – being a bi-national couple is hard on so many fronts – but being a same-sex couple, when neither of our countries recognized us as a couple, was a harsh reality that confronted us immediately.

I lived in Hong Kong at the time we met. When I retired in 2011, we were finally able to live together full time. We share homes in both Australia and the United States, but after a grilling at the Chicago airport earlier in 2012, we realized that Julie needed to be careful.

It’s been hard over the last several months. Both of my parents have had surgery, and I have become a primary supporter. Julie was trained as a nurse but, because we fear she might be barred at immigration, we decided that only I would come back to the U.S. to help them. My parents love and trust her, and it would benefit them for her to be able to be here. I would also benefit from her support.

I’ll be honest. I’m one of the lucky ones. Australia changed its laws in 2009 by defining a “de facto” couple as two people (opposite- or same-gender) who have a genuine, exclusive relationship, but who are not married. Australia has granted me permanent residency as a “de facto” partner. Julie and I went through a process that would be analogous to the US process for sponsoring a spouse for immigration. We proved that our relationship was genuine through a 5-inch stack of paper detailing the mingling of our finances, our daily Skype logs, our email presence, sworn support letters from her family of origin and my business colleagues, police checks (three different countries for me!), and a medical exam. I was granted a two-year temporary residency visa that allowed me to enter and leave Australia at will. Last August, that temporary visa was replaced with a Permanent Resident visa – the equivalent of a U.S. Green Card. I can live, work and pay taxes in Australia. The Australian government recognizes me as part of a couple.

Friends have asked us, “Why don’t you just live in Australia?” We could do that. But we have lives in both countries, and we have family in both countries. We have elderly parents in both countries. We have homes in both countries. If Australia recognizes us, why can’t the United States? Why must we choose one country over the other? Why should I essentially have to live in exile to be with my partner full-time?

My U.S. citizenship is very important to me. I was not born in the U.S. I am a naturalized U.S. citizen, as my father was serving in the United States Army in Germany when I was born. Even though I was born to U.S. citizens, I am not a “natural-born” US citizen. After all that my parents went through for our family and for our country, it’s very hard to be told that my relationship, my family, is not worthy to be in the United States.

The tide is turning in the United States. We celebrated with Maine, Washington and Maryland on Election Day as same-sex marriage was approved at the ballot box. We watch with fingers crossed as the Supreme Court of the United States decides whether to rule on the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA on November 30th. We pray for luck every May 1st when the results of the U.S. Diversity Lottery are announced.

For six years now, Julie and I have done everything we can to be together, even though U.S. laws keep us apart. We are both retired, and are watching our available funds for airline tickets dwindle. We watch the aging of our parents, and want to spend as much time with them as we can in their elder years.

We continue to hope. We continue to believe that we are human beings, with the same rights, the same dreams and the same feelings as our straight friends and family. We wish to have the pursuit of happiness in our own backyard!

We are America. We are Australia. We are a family.

Are you a same sex binational couple? Do you have families / friends affected by this issue? Please contact us at http://bit.ly/O4ICountMeIn if you are interested in sharing your story.
§U.S. Citizen Turning 65 Appeals to Senator Dianne Feinstein for Help
by GetEQUAL and Out4Immigration Tuesday Dec 4th, 2012 9:24 AM
This holiday season, GetEQUAL, Out4Immigration, and The DOMA Project are publishing the stories of just a few of the thousands of couples directly impacted by this discriminatory law, and who could be immediately helped by passing an LGBT-inclusive comprehensive immigration reform bill. Recently, Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate have talked about introducing a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the new Congressional session — and tens of thousands of couples’ lives hang in the balance as those negotiations begin. Regrettably, Senator Dianne Feinstein has not yet agreed to co-sponsor legislation called the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which could be included as part of an inclusive, comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Binational Same-Sex Couples to Congress: “Enact LGBT-Inclusive Immigration Reform!”
 
In 2005, Karin and I met via an online dating site. I hadn’t had much luck with online dating before, but a friend convinced me to try one more time. I gave it my best shot — a long, thoughtful profile and several photos. One day, I saw that someone had clicked on my profile, but hadn’t sent me a message. I messaged her, which freaked her out a bit. But she decided that someone who had spent so much time on their profile deserved an answer, which led to a flurry of online messages.
Messages turned into phone calls, and our ignorance about U.S. law allowed us to develop a relationship without knowledge that the U.S. government would eventually stand in the way of our being together. At the time, we didn’t know how much — the bliss of ignorance about the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was a big factor in our early days. I am embarrassed to say I didn’t know much about the issue, though I have been actively working on LGBT civil rights since the 1970′s when I came out. Karin and I have learned that many, even in the LGBT community, don’t know about the problem that binational same-sex couples face when trying to be together. In fact, most binational same-sex couples learn about the DOMA discrimination challenge the hard way — in the trenches.
Karin was visiting from France and knew nothing about DOMA. She hadn’t intended to enter into a long-term relationship — but both of our lives have changed dramatically as a result of that fortuitous click on my profile. It was only as our connection and our relationship began to deepen that we discovered the horrible truth that American citizens are forced every day to make a choice between love or country, spouse or career. I don’t think any American citizen should have to face this choice!
Because I chose Karin, I had to take early retirement and months-long forays out of California so that we could stay together.
The difficulties of binational same-sex couples became crystal clear after Karin was detained for hours in the San Francisco International Airport when we came home together in April, 2009. She had been out of the country for six months and I went to visit her, taking extra unpaid time off of work before we flew back home together. As I was getting our luggage, I turned and saw that she was no longer at the passport desk. She had disappeared! After standing there for a half hour or so, I was told that I had to leave — I couldn’t loiter at the luggage area. “But my friend isn’t here yet,” I told the guard. We couldn’t be truthful about our relationship, we learned, at passport crossings.
Over three hours later, Karin emerged in the international lobby, exhausted and shaken. She explained what had happened to her and shared that three Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials had questioned her and told her she was visiting the U.S. too often. They told her to leave the country for a long time. That night we had a big dose of what so many others suffer from being same-sex binational couples. It put us into high gear about seeing what we could do to get this situation fixed. When I went to work a few days later, I told my boss that I would have to quit my job and take early retirement, so that I could be together with my wife. No one could believe that we had faced this situation at the airport, that our future was so heavily impacted. Karin was able to stay with me for four months, but then she had to leave “for a long time” — still an unspecified length of time by the federal government.
I am now retired. I have a pension that is smaller than it would have been if I could have worked to age 65, but we’re doing everything we can to ensure that we can be together and we won’t stop fighting for the solution we all need. In August, 2010, I got the bug to write a book about people like us. Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law was another labor of love, and we have used that book to share our story and the stories of many others, as well as key information on groups working toward a solution to this problem. Proceeds from sales of the book are donated to Out4Immigration and two other groups. Karin and I speak about this issue at conferences. We have been on TV and radio. I have preached about it in church. I keep a blog and website going with stories and resources and upcoming events about our issue. It’s exciting and exhausting. We find that it is hard to document your life while you are living it — but we think it’s worth it (even on our bad and cranky days!).
The end of another year approaches and Karin and I are now calling ourselves Prisoners of Love instead of Love Exiles. Why? Because we are “under further review” with USCIS, the federal customs and immigration service. We cannot leave the U.S. together because Karin would not be allowed back in. She is not out of status, since she is in proceedings, but our status has not been finalized, either. So instead of being out of the country together as Love Exiles as we have been for six months at a time in the past, we are now home (two years in February 2013), though constantly on edge because of the threat of deportation. We’ve watched weddings via Skype, we’ve helped friends heal from surgery via phone, we’ve experienced grandchildrens’ graduations through photos — we’re literally watching our families’ lives pass us by from afar — and we’re angry about it!
In January, 2012 I applied for a marriage-based green card for Karin. Because of DOMA, our very application is against the law, but we decided not to let a little thing like federal law stop us. We are pushing the envelope and we hope it helps break the wall of discrimination that all same-sex binational couples face! We are legally married and we want the federal government to recognize our relatioship and treat us like all married couples should be treated.
Karin and I are in our golden years. She turned 72 this year. I face 65 in the first week of 2013. We don’t want much — we just want to be together, safely and legally. And if we can be healthy and happy and wise, that’s the icing on our cake! We love the Out4Immigration folks we have met on this journey. We love those we have met from other groups, too. We donate what we can to GetEQUAL and other LGBT equality/civil rights groups, and we share stories and information online and in person as often as possible. And we won’t stop until DOMA is relegated to the dustbins of history and we can live our lives in peace!