Married Lesbian Couple Separated by DOMA and an Ocean
Ana and I “met” in 2008 while we were both participating in an on-line book club. Although Ana is Portuguese, she currently resides in the United Kingdom. We quickly became friends in the book club and in November of that year, I was fortunate enough to have a business meeting scheduled in London. It was during that trip that Ana and I met face to face for the first time. Although we considered ourselves to be “just friends” for approximately a year after we met in London, we never went more than 2-3 days without corresponding with each other. At first it was only by email, but we were soon spending hours on the phone together learning more and more about each other. We quickly realized that our “friendship” was taking a turn and knew we had to meet again. This time it was in New York, where I live. It was clear to both of us that we were falling in love. In early 2010, Ana flew over and we spent 4 beautiful days together. It was then that we just knew we were meant to be together forever.
For the last two years one of us has made the long flight from New York to London at least once a month. Although it has been a tremendous financial burden for both of us, we know that we would suffer, being apart any more than we are already. Two years after we first met in the book club, on May 6, 2011, Ana and I celebrated our love for each other in front of more than 100 friends and family with a formal commitment ceremony on Long Island, New York. Then last July, we entered into a legal civil partnership in the United Kingdom, celebrating with Ana’s family, who had flown in from Portugal to be with us on that special day. When New York’s legislators passed the marriage equality bill in June we knew we wanted very much to be married. In August we exchanged wedding vows and became legally married. Finally, just this past November, I went to the Portuguese consulate in NYC to have our marriage officially recognized in Portugal. In some sense you might say we have now ‘married’ each other four times. Our relationship is now recognized on two continents and we have the love and support of our friends and family.
However, we are still apart. We are still viewed as nothing more than legal strangers by my own government. This is cruel and heartbreaking because it forces us to live a life crossing the Atlantic Ocean never knowing when an immigration officer on one side or the other might stop us from visiting.
We are sharing our story because we believe that we must stand up and tell others about the reality that we are living. I am a New Yorker and I am an American. I expect to be treated the same as all other Americans. I have fallen madly in love with the most wonderful woman, and I do not want to spend precious time apart from her. We should not have to exhaust ourselves or deplete our savings to spend a few days together each month. We should not have to construct a life of “visiting” each other. No other married couple would ever be expected to do what we are forced to do. It is overwhelmingly obvious to everyone in our extended community of family and friends whether in the US or abroad that this is cruel. We find ourselves explaining that although we are married, the US treats us as nothing more than strangers to each other. We see the puzzling looks stare back at us when we explain that we have a recognized civil partnership in the United Kingdom that gives us the same rights as opposite-sex couples when it comes to immigration. But we want to live in the United States, for many reasons it is not possible for me to relocate to the United Kingdom.
We know that one law, the most horribly named “Defense of Marriage Act”, is the only thing standing between us and our future together in the United States. No one who even says those words “Defense of Marriage” believes any marriage is defended or protected by forbidding the American government from recognizing our marriage and giving us the right to be together. DOMA makes a mockery of love and marriages by keeping us apart. I cannot make this more clear: I do not want to be forced to leave my country, but we cannot build a future together separated by 3,600 miles. My love for Ana cannot wait. Equality for all lesbian and gay couples cannot wait. We must end the tyranny of DOMA now and allow all LGBT families to live in peace.
I hope those reading our story will see how wrong it is that this government continues to enforce DOMA to keep apart two women in love. We cannot bring an end to DOMA simply by standing on the sidelines and waiting for it to happen. We must call on our leaders to stop enforcing DOMA, and to allow all lesbian and gay Americans to bring their spouses here now.