Janice & Margie: Married Lesbian Couple in North Carolina Fights DOMA to Stay Together With Their Children

Janice and Margie are a married binational couple who have lived together in North Carolina since 2005. They are raising two children together. Here, Janice shares the story of her family fighting to be together as her visa runs out.

Most of us have fond memories of the time we first met the love of our lives. Our story is no exception. In pursuit of the one, I spent some time on online dating sites to no avail. One night, tiring of the pursuit, I decided if no one came online with whom I could talk, I would power down my laptop and watch TV. After a couple of hours, I was about to logoff and reach for the remote when a stranger typed “hi.” I thought about ignoring her as I couldn’t be bothered with another pointless exchange, but something inspired me to say “hello” back. By the time we finished chatting eight hours later, it was 6 a.m!

That was almost eight years ago. That chance online encounter has since evolved into a loving and committed relationship, despite that fact that we were 4,000 miles and five time zones apart. Through many nights of talking for hours on end, we came to know each other’s lives, and we shared our dreams and aspirations. The following March, I came to visit Margie in the United States and realized that I didn’t ever want to be without this woman. When it came time to return to Britain to my family, my job, and my apartment, we felt as though our hearts were being ripped out of our chests not knowing when we would see each other again.

Once I got home, Margie and I resumed our daily ritual of chatting for hours on end. One day, I mentioned casually that I had always wanted to go back to college. Margie suggested that I come to the U.S. to study here. After some research we realized that this would achieve two goals: I could pursue a new career and we could finally be together. In October, I made a short trip to see Margie and visit the college I would be attending. I was full of anticipation for my studies, but I was excited, too, because I would be experiencing this new chapter in my life alongside the woman I loved. I gave up my apartment in London, packed all my belongings and moved to the United States in December 2005 on a student visa.

Today, I hold an Associate’s Degree in Web Technologies and a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science; however, my proudest accomplishment is the life that Margie and I have built together. Margie’s children have become mine. They see me as their second mom, who loves and supports them. Her parents, New Yorkers who are in their late sixties and early seventies, treat me as if I was their daughter. Anyone who knows us can see that we are a typical family, caring for each other through thick and thin, celebrating holidays, birthdays and anniversaries.  But the story, for us, does not end there.  My student visa is about to expire and I have found no way to stay legally in the U.S. with Margie and our kids.  Because we are a lesbian couple, the regular avenues of immigration designed to keep families together are closed off to us.

Janice and Margie on their wedding day

Our savings have been depleted by the cost of my foreign student tuition fees, and my inability to work because of visa restrictions. We were forced to take on student loans so that I could complete my degrees. All the while, Margie has held down two jobs to keep us going, which is more stress and strain than she can bear at times though she never complains. For her, keeping us together is the only acceptable option. Whenever the topic comes up, she says with great conviction, “you are not going anywhere and that’s the end of it!”  but I know that she is as terrified as I am.

Now in our fifties, we are at a time in our lives when we should be able to save and plan for retirement. Instead, I am a middle-aged college graduate forced to maintain my status as student to keep my family together.  As a result, we are faced with a debt that will take 20 years for us to pay off, and I have no guarantee, as my visa expires, that there will be any way for me to stay in the U.S. alongside the woman I love, and our children.

We decided, as a family, to fight back.  On June 21, our extended family gathered with us in Clifton Park, New York where Margie and I were legally married, after almost 8 years together. We would have married sooner, but we feared that this would complicate my obtaining another student visa, if by some slim chance that were even necessary or possible in the future.  So we held off, though we felt married to each other in every way possible.

The brides with Margie’s parents

The day of our wedding was magical. We celebrated all that we have, before the people we love most in the world. We experienced the joy of newlyweds embarking on the next chapter of life together and of a lesbian couple finally able to participate in a rite that so many others take for granted. We fought back tears of happiness as we exchanged our vows and as our family watched on, fighting back their own tears that we were finally able to become the married couple we had long felt we already were in so many ways. It was a scorching hot day, but we didn’t care. We were now married, and that’s all that mattered. After the ceremony we took more photos, and my father-in-law and mother-in-law treated us all to a wonderful meal at an Italian restaurant. My father-in-law then surprised us by booking a room for us at a gorgeous hotel for our wedding night. We were very spoiled by our family that day. The whole week was full of celebration, and we realized just how much our marriage meant to our entire extended family. I don’t think my Margie’s mom has come down off of cloud nine yet!

In our home state of North Carolina, 61% of voters recently approved a hateful constitutional amendment to forbid us from marrying. We feel forced to hide who we are. There is no way to describe how it feels to deny your own existence, spinning yet another tale about how we are just friends who just live together. We are afraid that Margie would lose her job if her employer found out she was gay, because of course there is no protection against such discrimination. This is a matter of survival as her job supports the four of us, and has kept me in the country.

All we want is the same protection provided by the immigration law to other couples in our situation. Margie and I are married, I am her wife. We should be able to file a green card petition and that petition should be approved. Our love for each other and for our children is no different than that of any other married couple.

A happy family photo


  • This is a tragically beautiful story about a wonderfully loving binational couple who are cruelly separated by a discriminatory US law: DOMA. It is similar in a number of ways to our story: Jin Eook Kang of South Korea and mine, Hilton Brown of Delaware, USA. Although we don’t have children and we have not as yet married, we are nevertheless a committed couple. Jin Eook (Jason) had to return to his homeland, South Korea, when his student visa expired last summer. Since that dreadful day on September 11, 2011 we have lived apart, Jason in South Korea and me in Wilmington, DE. We speak every day on the phone and have done so since he left. I spent 3 wonderful weeks with him in late November and early December, 2011 on my first visit to South Korea and I’m looking forward to visiting again this fall but we should be living together in this country where Jason spent 15 years completing two degrees in preparation to work in his chosen field. Although we’d begun to start the process of filing an application for Canadian residency and marriage in July, 2010 that ended when I was diagnosed with some health issues that I fear will very possibly undermine my chances to be fount acceptable for residency by the Canadian immigration authorities. Thus, similar to Janice and Margie, we are unable to live as a committed couple in the United States where I have lived all my life and Jason wants to live his life as well.

    July 2, 2012
    • The DOMA Project

      We are fighting to keep all couples together in this country, and we encourage anyone who is faced with an expiring visa to contact us, to share your story and to work with us to fight separations and exile caused by DOMA. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

      July 2, 2012
  • Don George

    Great story Margie and Janice. It parallels the story my partner (and now spouse) and I have. I wish you the very best. In a just country, there is absolutely no reason for you guys to have to go through what you are going through. I really hope that the Supreme Court declares DOMA unconstitutional within the next year. I firmly believe that it is unconstitutional, but you never know what those Justices will do. Once that happens, I can apply for a green card for my husband and you can apply for a green card for your wife — just like any other legally married couples where one spouse is a citizen. My one concern is that if Obama loses in November, no matter what the Court says, a President Romney would do his best to throw up road blocks in the process. Thanks again for your story.

    July 2, 2012
  • Janice

    Our heartfelt thanks go to everyone at The DOMA Project for their friendship and support. Thank you again for highlighting our story. We will be eternally grateful for all that you do for binational couples.

    Thank you Hilton Brown for your comment. Please consider making contact with someone here to discuss what you can do next (if you haven’t already done so). We are certainly glad we did!

    Never feel alone in this. We are all in this together, and that’s how we will win in the end.

    Margie & I encourage everyone who is in our situation to contact The DOMA Project. Share your story, make the connection. Everyone at Stop The Deportations is so helpful, and will do whatever they can to help you, but you have to make yourselves known to them.

    We will win this fight if we stand up and make sure we are counted. We cannot expect the few to fight our fight alone; we must take that leap of faith and stand with them.

    There is power in numbers! We are stronger together!
    This is a great group of people to have on your side.

    Love to all.

    Janice & Margie.

    July 3, 2012
  • T and J

    Thank you for your story. It brings us hope. I thought I was the only one who has struggled between getting married, live our life and the fear of losing future i-20 extension and not able to stay with my soul mate. However, my struggles come from my own personal issues, of being afraid and to have fear and not having the emotional support I need from friends, family and peers. Having to face hates and discrimination and not able to defend ourselves. Sometimes I feel that we are alone. But, thank you for your inspiration and your bravery to fight for us. We really appreciate it and we hope that one day we could do it too. Thanks again.

    July 9, 2012
    • Janice

      You are never alone. There are many thousands of us in the predicament. Our stories may vary a little in one way or another, but the core of our issue is still the same. We are couples in love, who want to spend the rest of our lives together, and to be treated in the same way that married opposite-sex couples are. We are no different to any other couple who has met, fallen in love, and has embarked on a life together.
      The American citizen half of each same-sex binational couple is being treated like a second-class citizen…or worse!

      When you feel able to share your story with the world, and seek the help and advice of those at the DOMA Project, then we strongly urge you to do so. We will win this fight, so never give up! When we stand together, we are strong!

      As was once said (who said it is under some dispute, but most believe it was Gandhi)…

      “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win!”

      They’re fighting us right now………..our win is on the horizon everyone!

      Much love
      Janice & Margie.

      July 15, 2012

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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.