FIGHTING TO STAY TOGETHER: Inger and Philippa Forced Apart by DOMA For Now, Brought Closer with Wedding Vows

Marrying in Iowa – April, 2012

In just a few days I will be forced to leave my wife, our child, and our home behind in the United States because our family isn’t recognized or respected under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Last September, my family and I came to the conclusion that Inger and I needed to be legally married in the States. On April 3, 2012 we drove from our home state to Iowa (the closest marriage equality state) and tie the knot. We chose April 3rd because it is the anniversary of our first commitment ceremony three years ago.

I confess I was scared stiff of getting married, like anyone would be.  But deep down I had no doubt that it was right choice for my beautiful wife and me. I wanted our family to have the stability that a legal marriage provides, and that society provides for legal spouses. But I know that, at the federal level, our marriage does not mean we are any closer to being together permanently because of DOMA and current U.S. immigration laws.  But for me it makes all the difference on an emotional level.  It means everything to my family, that Inger and I are married, not “married”, and that we are legally recognized as one another’s wife.

Kissing the Bride

The folks in Story County, Iowa were absolutely amazing on our big day. There was no hint of disapproval or judgment. We both walked in wearing political t-shirts (“Some chicks marry chicks. Get over it.“) and collected the paperwork we needed to get hitched. When we returned later that day after the ceremony, they couldn’t have been more complimentary and well wishing to us.

So a big thank you, from my whole family, to everyone who helped us that day in Story County. Also a big thanks to our friend April, who arranged everything for us, to Gary, who saved us when we needed a second witness, and to Homie, for performing the ceremony and providing the beautiful scenic location.

Our marriage has truly changed the way I feel about so much in just a few days. Even though leaving so soon breaks me in two, I felt so fortunate to have seen my wife happier than I have ever seen before. The joy in her eyes means everything to me. I know that this was the right decision for our family, and I am more motivated than ever to tell the world about how much my family deserves basic equal respect

Us in front of the Story County, Iowa Registrar’s Office

The timing of this trip was not just about us getting married. It was also about Easter and our daughter’s birthday. Turning 12 is a big deal and I was happy to be there for her big day. I know there will be more special days, but an unjust law should never be allowed to deny me those moments.

On a bittersweet note, when we booked the flights we didn’t know the dates of our daughter’s spring show. It turns out that her big performance is two days after I leave. I have not been able to see her perform in person once in the last four years of our family being together. I can only see my daughter via videos from her school. I feel gutted to be honest. But there is no way I can change my flights right now to make this happen. It pains me to know that my wife will sit in the school auditorium watching our talented daughter’s great performance. I will only share it with her via text messages. I truly cherish every moment I get to spend with my family.  I just want to be a great wife and great parent. I want to be able to show them how proud of am of their amazing achievements.

Until DOMA is repealed I do not get to start doing that.

I tell our story to the world because I know that sharing our experiences, sharing our lives, will lead to change we need. It has been over four years of traveling back and forth, and I genuinely love my wife more with every day. I never regret the path that I have chosen because I know that when we have true equality and our life can begin together properly, that the moments we spent apart will feel like distant memories. The fact that she married me is just the next step in our big adventure…

On behalf of everyone involved with the Stop the Deportations – the DOMA Project campaign, we extend heartfelt congratulations to Inger & Philippa.

Married Gay Couple, Sean and Steven, Fights DOMA Deportation in NYC Immigration Court

Sean and Steven preparing this morning for tomorrow’s hearing

Tomorrow Sean and Steven will appear before a New York Immigration Judge to argue that Steven should not be deported to his native Colombia, where he has not lived for more than 12 years. (Read Sean’s original post here: “Eight Years After First Meeting, Sean and Steven Marry and File Green Card Petition, Joining Fight Against DOMA“).  In November 2011, Sean filed a green card petition for his husband on the basis of their marriage. Just a few days ago, the petition was denied by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services solely because of DOMA. The couple has filed an appeal of that decision.

Meanwhile, Steven has filed an application for cancellation of removal. Cancellation is a form of relief from deportation that results in a green card for a individual who has been present in the United States for more than 10 years, is of good moral character and can show that his deportation would cause extreme hardship to a “qualifying relative.” In this case, Steven argues that his deportation would cause extreme hardship to Sean. However, like Sean’s green card petition, the application for cancellation requires that the Immigration Judge recognize Sean as Steven’s spouse for all federal law purposes. Unlike Sean’s green card petition, the cancellation application directly implicates the Matter of Dorman, a case with similar facts still pending before the Board of Immigration Appeals. The U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, intervened last year in Matter of Dorman to ask that panel for a ruling as to whether the extreme hardship to a same-sex “partner” could be considered where a “spouse” could not be recognized due to DOMA, specifically in the context of a cancellation application. Sean and Steven will argue that this issue is as yet unsettled law and that no final decision should be made until it has been resolved. Sean and Steven are resolute that they will not be separated after 8 years. They join dozens of other couples who have demanded to be treated equally under the law, and who have joined the Stop The Deportations campaign.

Five Binational Couples File Lawsuit Challenging DOMA in Federal District Court in New York: Will Obama Administration Finally Implement Abeyance Policy?

 

DOMA CHALLENGE BY FIVE BINATIONAL COUPLES FILED IN

FEDERAL COURT IN THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION SHOULD IMMEDIATELY PUT A HOLD ON

ALL “DOMA” GREEN CARD CASES UNTIL CASE IS DECIDED


Obama DOJ Likely to Again Enter This Litigation on Behalf of Plaintiffs and Argue that DOMA is Unconstitutional 

Will the Administration Finally Agree to Hold All “DOMA” Green Card Petitions in Abeyance?


For the third time in a year, married same-sex binational couples who have been denied green cards are going to federal court to challenge the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA has already been struck down by federal district judges in several non-immigration related cases since 2010, and this new case would join the growing queue of such challenges. (See note below regarding the two DOMA challenges filed last year by binational couples in Los Angeles and Chicago.)

Today, five married gay and lesbian binational couples filed suit in the Federal District Court in the Eastern District of New York against the Attorney General, Eric Holder, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary, Janet Napolitano, and others, arguing that denial of green cards for the spouses of gay and lesbian Americans pursuant to Section 3 of DOMA constitutes a violation of the Equal Protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution.

Five Binational Gay Couples File Lawsuit Challenging DOMA. - Andy Towle (www.towleroad.com)

Lawyers for Stop the Deportations – the DOMA Project, which represents three dozen married binational couples who have filed for green cards, repeated their call for the Obama Administration to implement immediate moratorium on the denial of any green card petitions filed by married same-sex couples until this case has been fully litigated and there has been a final judicial determination on DOMA Section 3.


STATEMENT FROM STOP THE DEPORTATIONS – THE DOMA PROJECT:


Lavi Soloway, attorney and co-founder of the DOMA Project:

With the filing of this lawsuit, the Obama Administration has a clear opportunity to re-evaluate their policy of denying green cards on the basis of DOMA. The administration should immediately put on hold all green card petitions filed by gay and lesbian Americans for their foreign born spouses.

With the filing of this court case, all pending marriage-based petitions for gay and lesbian couples should be held in abeyance while the Department of Justice argues that DOMA is unconstitutional as applied to immigration benefits.

Stop the Deportations – the DOMA Project has called on President Obama and Secretary Janet Napolitano of the Department Homeland Security to ensure that all green card cases filed by lesbian and gay couples are fully adjudicated to determine that all eligibility criteria have been met. Once DHS has determined that these green card petitions would be approved but for DOMA, a final determination should be held in abeyance until a final judicial determination has been reached in the litigation announced today.

The bedrock foundation of our countries immigration law is to keep all families together; for too long, DOMA has undermined that principle, tearing apart LGBT families.

The White House website states: ‘President Obama believes [that]… Americans with partners from other countries should not be faced with a painful choice between staying with their partner or staying in their country.’  The administration’s current policy of denying green cards and refusing to hold cases in abeyance destroys marriages and tears apart families.

“Abeyance would mean that USCIS does not approve petitions, as DOMA prohibits approval, but also does not deny petitions. By abstaining from a final decision, most especially in light of the pending legal challenge to DOMA, USCIS would allow legally married lesbian and gay spouses to live together legally and safely within the United States. Abeyance would not contravene DOMA, and it is a reasonable and respectful policy until there is a final resolution of DOMA especially in light of the filing of the lawsuit today.”

Note: In January 2012, Chicago Federal District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber handed a victory to a married gay binational couple challenging DOMA when he denied the Motion to Dismiss filed by the Obama administration which argued that the case lacked “subject matter jurisdiction.” Judge Leinenweber allowed the case to proceed, and allowed the lawyers hired by House Republicans to defend the Constitutionality of DOMA in this case. In 2011, the Obama DOJ filed a brief in support of a gay binational couple in Federal District Court in Los Angeles in which it argued that denying a green card to the spouse of a U.S. citizen violated the constitution.


For more information contact Lavi Soloway, founder of Stop The Deportations – The DOMA Project.

Lavi Soloway – Phone 323-599-6915
[email protected]
[email protected]

 

© The DOMA Project

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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.