Showdown with DOMA: Mark & Fred Meet With USCIS and Fight for Their Family at Green Card Interview in Philadelphia
After 22 Years Together, Married Gay Couple With Four Adopted
Children Fights For Their Marriage And Their Family
In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Mark Himes & Frédéric Deloizy
Are on the Front Lines of The Fight Against DOMA
January 10, 2012 – NEW YORK, NEW YORK
When she wakes up on Wednesday, January 11, Claire, 8, will have a lot more to consider than the earrings she is wearing for school. Her ears were pierced as a Christmas present: a gift, she told her dad, that she had been waiting for her whole life. The Christmas tree is still up in her home, but the presents under it have all been unwrapped, and emptied, naturally. Her three brothers, John, Jacob, and Joshua, ages six through eleven, received a small arsenal of toys that have been played with and are already causing mayhem, posing tripping hazards in the hallway until Papa will offer to buy the toys back and tuck them away for safe-keeping or risk further neglect. On the surface, everything is as it should be. But John, Claire, Jacob, and Joshua are ordinary kids under extraordinary circumstances.
On January 11th, Daddy and Papa will appear before a Philadelphia Immigration Officer for a “Green Card” interview to put forward evidence of their 22-year relationship and their marriage. The goal? To be allowed to stay together with their children in this country. For a married gay couple in which one spouse is foriegn, the process of applying for permanent resident status is not straightforward. Frederick Deloizy is a French national, and, as a foreigner who has seen both his work visa and his student visa expire, the time he has left to share with his family may now be limited.
Frédéric Deloizy and Mark Himes, a US citizen were wed in California in 2008, 18 years after they first met. They represent a growing number of same-sex couples with a partner of foreign nationality at risk of separation because immigration officials are barred from recognizing their marriage under the federal Defense of Marriage Act. By contrast, any bi-national opposite-sex couple in their position would never face a future as uncertain. Despite the hurdles they face, Fred and Mark decided that they must fight for the green card based on their marriage. To do less, would be to accept the discrimination that has put their family in such a precarious position.
But theirs is a story not only about the federal government’s lack of recognition of same-sex marriage, but the legal limbo that it creates for same-sex bi-national couples with children. In two decades together, they have adopted four beautiful children, now ranging in age from six to eleven. A patchwork of incoherent legislation means that while they are recognized legally as same-sex adoptive parents in Pennsylvania, the federal govenrment refuses to recognize their marriage. They welcomed their two oldest children, John and Claire, just days after their respective birthdays in 2000 and 2003. On their 19th anniversary in April 2009, Fred and Mark welcomed Jacob and Joshua, both four years old at the time. All four of the kids would have remained wards of the state, dependent on government coffers, shuffled from one foster home to the next, if Mark and Fred had not provided a loving, stable home. Instead, they now have a Daddy and a Papa, and siblings, toys they may take for granted, and a loving home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania that may soon be torn apart.
Their interview comes just one week after the Iowa caucuses and the day after the New Hampshire primary in the backdrop of an election season where candidates jostling for position to become the Republican presidential nominee have fallen over each other to convince audiences that they are the most opposed to marriages of same-sex couples. And they are fully aware that Pennsylvania’s former Senator, Rick Santorum, is the most vitriolic. Last week, he promised that if elected he would annul all same-sex marriages. In this weekend’s candiate debates, Santorum and his fellow Republican candidates made clear that they are equally opposed to adoption by same-sex couples. Mark and Fred see this as an attack on their family. It is hard to ignore the hypocrisy of this rhetoric, as it comes from individuals who are supposedly espousing the primacy of family values. Children deserve to have a loving home and loving parents. The four children in this loving home may yet see their family ripped apart, one of their parents exiled abroad because of the Defense of Marriage Act. The law is poorly named, because it defends no one’s marriage, but threatens to destroy this one. Laws in both the U.S. and France create significant challenges to this couple of nearly 22 years. While France recognizes same-sex relationships as civil unions and may allow Mark to immigrate there, France does not recognize same-sex adoption and consequently, does not acknowledge that they are both legal parents of their children for immigration (or any other) purpose.
Mark and Fred have put their efforts over the past few years into staying in the United States, building their home, and putting down their roots. As they await a decision on whether 2012 will be the year their family is torn apart they have decided to take the fight to their elected officials and to the President, himself a son of a binational couple. At best, the administrative agency could choose to do what Mark and Fred consider “the right thing” and place their case into abeyance until litigation concerning the constitutionality of DOMA makes its way to the Supreme Court. At worst, Fred may be placed into deportation proceedings, their nightmare scenario. Meanwhile, the family is in a state of limbo, and it pains them as parents when they can’t answer their children with certainty about the future. They can only preparing themselves, mentally and emotionally, to fight for full equality under the law.
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STOP THE DEPORTATIONS, SEPARATIONS AND EXILE – THE DOMA PROJECT, a campaign co-founded by attorney, Lavi Soloway in July 2010 along with his law partner, Noemi Masliah, has contributed to the trend of recent victories for lesbian and gay couples who are faced with deportation, separation or exile because of the Defense of Marriage Act. For nearly two decades, Soloway has been the most prominent attorney and advocate on LGBT immigration law and policy in the United States. He has worked exclusively in this field since co-founding the non-profit organization, Immigration Equality, in 1993.