A Mother’s Failing Health: Lesbian Couple Caught Between America and Australia

I am an American woman in love. While I have met my soulmate, I have also found that in my relationship with my country, my country seems to be rejecting me.

Mia and I started dating in August 2007 while I was living and working in Australia. By the time our relationship developed into a romantic one, we had already been friends for years. Mia is Australian. I was born in the United States and while I was living in Australia I became an Australian citizen.  My dual citizenship has given us some advantages over other binational lesbian couples. That is until unexpected crisis interrupted our peaceful lives and reminded us of the extreme cruelty of discrimination in American immigration laws that are meant to protect and unify families.

Our relationship from the very beginning was amazing. Mia is one of the most loving and caring people I have ever known. We spent years living together in Australia happy and content.  During these years I missed my mother very much. It was difficult for me to live so far away, but I knew that moving back home to the U.S. was not an option due to American laws excluding gay binational couples from family-based immigration. Sadly, I came to realize that I have more rights as a gay Australian than I do in my home country.

We took annual trips to the US and spent a month visiting with my family and friends. During these trips Mia became very close with my parents and began to understand how hard it was for me to be so far away.

In the past year my parents have had major health issues and it has made our distance more than just difficult, it became a crisis. My Dad had a stroke and was in the hospital for one month undergoing a major surgery. In February, my Mom had a heart attack and we came very close to losing her. My parents worried about me being so far away and tried to protect me from the truth about their health. When I finally discovered the extent of their health issues I spent many difficult months deciding whether to move back home to take care of them. What made this decision so difficult was the knowledge that it would put a lot of stress on my relationship with Mia because I was unable to sponsor her as my partner.  My parents’ health was in the balance. That my parents, aging and needing the help of their daughter, are now victims of the mean-spirited politicians who forced the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on this country is appalling.  That law stands in the way of our family being together at a time of extreme stress and great need.  Why did Congress do this to our family?

In May 2010, I began making all of the arrangements to move my life and Mia back to the US. As Mia has two University degrees, I was hoping that she would be able to get an work visa. When we arrived in US things did not go as we had planned. Within three weeks of us arriving in the US we had to rush my Mom to hospital. She was in the CCU for four weeks and again we almost lost her. All together she was in the hospital for four months and both Mia and I were at the hospital every day with her. I am designated by her health care proxy to make sure she was receiving the best care. Mia was my rock during this time. If it wasn’t for her love and support I would have not made it through this critical time. My Mom has now been home for a little over one month and she needs a lot of assistance with medications, treating her pressure sore, cooking, cleaning, etc. Mia and I have spent most of our time taking care of my Mom.

Because it was so important for Mia to be there for me and for my parents in this difficult period, she selflessly put off looking for an employer to sponsor her for a work visa. I sit here now sharing my story with you knowing that in a few days my love will be getting on a plane to go back to Australia without me. We are hoping that she will be able to return in a month or two but there are no guarantees. I cannot imagine my life without her.  I should be able to petition for her as my spouse so that she is able to stay here with me for as long as we are needed here. That should be our choice, based on our family’s need. Instead, my own government does not allow me to keep my family together, while a binational heterosexual couple would never face this outrageous and inhumane situation. I am so sad and angry that my government treats my family this way.

I am now in a position, which no one should be put in. I have been forced to choose between taking care of my parents and being with my partner who I love and adore. It is more stressful and heart wrenching than any words could ever explain. And it must end. Congress has the power and the responsibility to repeal DOMA and must do so. This must be a priority for our community.

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  • My heart really goes out to you. I'm also an American citizen living in Australia with my Aussie partner, plus we have 2 children together, and of course the US gov't doesn't recognise our family either. Thankfully my parents are still in reasonably good health, but I know that won't last forever. I can only wish the best to both of you and pray that our gov't will recognise us like everyone else.

    December 5, 2010
  • Anonymous

    It is so unbelievable that in the United States of America in 2010 we are still facing this horrible discrimination. We need to get the word out about this senseless suffering. Everyone in similar situations should sit down this week and send your story to your local newspapers. Lets see if we can get some media attention. You know, most people doen't even know that this discrimination exists. I believe that if people knew what was happening they would come out in strong support for us. Let's tell everyone!

    December 6, 2010
  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for your compassionate words. I hope someday soon the American Government wakes up to itself. Going through this makes me appreciate Australia more than ever. I wish all of the best to you and your family.

    December 6, 2010
  • Leah

    My thoughts and support are with you and your family. Thank you for sharing your story.

    December 6, 2011

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This is a pro-bono project of the law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC. Posts on this website are offered for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. The law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC has offices in New York and Los Angeles. Our practice is limited to U.S. Immigration & Nationality Law.