Seven Years After Falling in Love in Croatia, Jon and Nedo Fight for their Marriage and the Right to be Together

Photo by Steven Rosen Photography

My name is Jon. In the photo above, I am the American guy on the right looking a bit choked up. I think it was taken just after the moment during our wedding when my husband Nedo stared into my eyes and told me that he was going to love me forever.

Let me go back in time and tell the story of how Nedo and I met. In April of 2005, I decided to take some time off from work and travel to Europe with the intent of finding a place I could live while I finished a college degree. I literally stumbled onto the Stradun in the charming medieval, walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatia. I fell in love with the country and its people, but one particular Croatian hunk ended up stealing my heart. Having been a pretty jaded guy living in San Francisco I had pretty much given up on my dream of finding a soul mate. Even typing that I still flinch a little bit because I know it just sounds so corny.

I remember sitting in a coffee bar on a warm September night near Pile Gate, an entrance to Old Town, as it is called, and seeing Nedo for the first time. He had come to the location because he had heard from one of the workers that there was a handsome American whom he should come check out. He was beautiful and I was enamored but we didn’t know at that moment that our paths were meant to cross again. The next time I saw him I was eating ice cream at another coffee shop. I was caught a little off guard and couldn’t understand why he was starting at me so I kind of hid a little bit behind an umbrella. We laugh about it today because he couldn’t believe I would try to hide from him. He was determined, as he proudly states today, to get to know me.

The next time I saw him was when I brought a friend from the U.S. into the store where Nedo worked. I didn’t realize the “hot Croatian guy” that I had telephoned my friend back home about worked at this store.  It felt like fate was dealing us our cards. I was so happy to see him again.  We got to talking and Nedo asked me for my cell phone number; he called me almost immediately after we left the store wanting to drop off a bracelet that he “fixed” for my friend. That, it turned out, was a pretext to get to know me better.

Since the day we first met, Nedo and I have not been apart with the exception of the seven months while we waited for him to come to the United States on his student visa. When I eventually ran out of money and I had to return home from Europe, I never expected that Nedo and I would find a way to maintain our relationship back in the U.S. It occurred to me while we were chatting online that if this man was going to give up his beautiful country, his wonderful friends, and move away from his family,  how could I not welcome him with open arms in my country?  To this day the effects of that decision on him to leave his family are deeply emotional and he can’t allow himself to communicate with them regularly because it is easier to disassociate then deal with the enormity of that decision.  Every time he talks to his family he ends up crying for the remainder of the night.  He misses his nieces and nephews terribly and it hurts him not to see them regularly.  The fact that he is separated from his mother is something he can’t even fully grasp without his eyes swelling with tears.  Due to his current legal status he cannot risk leaving the country for fear his visa will not be renewed, but this means he also must live with the knowledge that he may never see his parents again.  They are getting older and the more time that goes by without him being able to visit is another form of torment for us as a gay binational American family.  My husband experiences this pain often, and it causes me to resent my government for the pain our families suffer in the name of DOMA.

I had to borrow $18,000 from my sister to prove that I could sponsor Nedo for a student visa. I worked two jobs to pay for his tuition and our rent in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. We went through very tough financial times in the beginning of our relationship. The stress took a severe toll on my mental and physical health. Nedo was not used to relying on others to take care of him, and he also suffered from not being able to contribute financially to our household.

Eventually, we settled into a domestic routine. Nedo went to school full-time, but almost every day he cooked our meals and did laundry; he even folded and ironed the sheets! He meticulously planned every holiday and decorated at least three trees on Christmas. Nedo took care of me  as much as I took care of him, and he made our home and life together. Nedo has become an important part of my family.  He is “Uncle Nedo” to my nieces, a brother to my sisters, and a cousin to my cousins.  We celebrate every Thanksgiving at the home of my born-again Christian brother and his fourth wife.   Numerous members of our extended family members support us in our cause for Marriage Equality, recognizing that our fight to be together is not a gay or straight issue, but an issue of our common humanity as a family.  Virtually, everyone who has come into our lives knows and supports us in our struggle to stay together and cannot believe that there is a chance Nedo might be taken away from all of us.

Nedo has given me everything and has taught me the true meaning of partnership and unconditional love. He is the love of my life and he is a source of inspiration to all in our life.  It makes me tear up even just thinking of how much love he has shown for me and my family. There are ways that this man has supported me that do not lend themselves easily to words. He is faithfully and religiously by my side. I feel blessed to be able to share life, our friends and family together.  What we have in our lives together today is something we have both dreamed of all of our lives.  We would love to be able to think of our future and how we want to have a home in California and a summer residence in Croatia close to his family.  We dream of owning our own business to support ourselves but none of it can fully become a reality when living your life in constant fear of not knowing what the future holds.  We would love more then anything to buy a house and know that it will always be our home together. Such simple dreams often seem impossible for us as a gay binational couple.

I remember the day in 2008 when the Supreme Court of California ruled that gay couples could marry. It was the first time I realized that Nedo and I could marry. At that moment I was ambivalent. I had been told that Nedo may complicate his visa status if we were married because it could be interpreted as an indication of  intent to remain in the United States.  (I later realized that much of the concern around marriage and visa status stems from a lack of understanding of these issues.)  Importantly, though, something in my mind changed that day.  With respect to my relationship to Nedo, to our love, I felt like every other American. I felt worthy. I felt that we had the chance to feel equal. Finally, I was in love with a wonderful man who I would actually want to marry and now the most wonderful and surprising thing had happened: a court ruling had made it all possible.

Photograph by Steven Rosen Photography

As everyone reading this knows by now, our right to marry ended up being put to a vote and it was taken away by a slim majority of Californians. It felt like a punch in gut. I was so upset that I lost a lot of hope in my own country at that moment. I remember the opposing side of Prop 8 using Obama’s statement about marriage and feeling let down that the President didn’t aggressively speak out in opposition to the Proposition.  Nedo even met Nancy Pelosi at a book signing event in San Francisco and brought up the fact that I could not sponsor him for a green card because of DOMA. She said “I know; it’s a disgrace and we need to change that.” Nice words, but that’s all they were.  Over the next few years we became increasingly frustrated when the response from our elected officials essentially became, “what choice do we have but wait for change?”  We have started to realize that change is not something you wait for; it’s something you make happen.

I get upset when I think about the taxes I have paid over the years to my government only to be treated like a second-class citizen, while other people, like my brother, who is on his fourth marriage, get unlimited chances to pursue their happiness.  As an American citizen I cannot stand by and allow my love for Nedo to be treated as though it is less valuable than my brother’s marriages.

A dream came true for us last August, when a birthday trip to New York for Nedo ended up being so much more than just a visit to the Statue of Liberty! On July 24th, New York State’s marriage equality law went into effect, so about a week before our trip I asked Nedo if after six years together was he would marry me while we were in New York. Nedo and I had concerns about jeopardizing his visa status; however, we both decided our commitment was worth the risk especially since his visa expires in February 2013. We arranged for Reverend Annie Lawrence to conduct our ceremony and hired photographer Stephen Rosen to take pictures of our Bow Bridge wedding in Central Park. Its hard to put into words the feelings and emotions we both felt that day while saying our vows. What we have is special and the experience of being able to legally commit ourselves in a ceremony like all other loving couples was a once in a lifetime, joyful experience.

Nedo and I live in San Francisco today and we are very blessed. We have been through a lot together and have always been taken care of. We have a certain faith in our respective higher powers that our love is special and that we will be taken care of.

Each year we participate in the Diversity Visa Green Card Lottery and this last year was especially bitter for us as we are running out of time on Nedo’s visa. The Green Card Lottery is our final hope. Nedo is tired of being in school and cannot continue to study as his heart is not in it. He also misses his family terribly and wants to see them badly. Because his visa will be up in February of 2013 we are running out of options.

We can no longer put off conversations about what will happen to us next year. If Nedo stays after his visa ends, how will we manage without being able to maintain lawful status? He will be stuck and unable to see his family in Europe, and we will be forced to live in fear that he will be deported. If we find no other solution, he will be forced to leave the United States, bringing our relationship to an end. We have talked about long distance relationships and do not believe it is fair for either of us to put one another through that. But we can’t imagine being torn apart. Will we stay and fight or will our love and lives be broken apart?  This is devastating for us to think about this but this is our reality. Every day we inch closer to the expiration of his student visa without a solution. Living with this uncertainty and fear is like an ache in your heart that never goes away.

It’s been hard for me to write this story. I have spent all of my life in sales and promote things that have “value propositions” and am always discovering the needs of others and making recommendations. I am writing this story because I need help keeping the man I love with all my heart in this country.

Photograph by Steven Rosen Photography

Nedo has family and friends in Croatia. What he doesn’t have there is the life we have built together in the United States with our friends and family. We have worked very hard to put together an amazing home and a life for us as a couple. I want to take care of him and provide for him for the remainder of his life. I want for him to be legally recognized as my husband in the United States. I want for us to be able to go home to Croatia together and see his face when he hugs his mother. I want to see his mother for the first time with her knowing that I am Nedo’s husband. I want us to have the same rights and the same joys in life that every heterosexual couple takes for granted.

We will fight to have all of that. Getting married in 2011 was the first step in that direction.  Now we will fight for our marriage. We will not wait for change to happen. That is why we have joined The DOMA Project. We encourage other couples to fight for their love, to tell their stories and to hold our government accountable for DOMA.  Together we can stop this law from tearing us apart, destroying our families and our dreams, forcing us to live in exile or across the globe from those we love most. We have the power to end this now.

29 comments


  • Jon Evans

    Thank you for helping us get our story out. We appreciate everything you have done to help couples like us.

    We are so lucky to be included in such a wonderful organization that gives of your time and services so freely.

    Big hugs to all of you!

    Jon and Nedo

    July 31, 2012
    • Jon Evans

      Everyone who reads our story- please share on facebook or twitter! We need as much coverage as possible.

      We are running out of time and Obama could solve our problem today!

      Obama can act now to allow LGBT married binational couples to apply for green cards and put them on hold and ensure that spouses of gay Americans can stay in lawful status until DOMA is struck down by SCOTUS or repealed by Congress when the cases can then be approved.

      We need your help getting attention to this story! Thank you

      August 4, 2012
  • L. Roxanne Evans

    I am so proud of you for doing this! Your story must be shouted from the rooftops…we must find a way for Nedo to stay. He’s part of our family too. It’s wrong for him ti have to choose between love and family. Home country and host country…..I am so sorry our government and it’s people let you down. This could be the year…people are finally waking up and demanding their rights. I support you!

    July 31, 2012
    • Jon Evans

      We both get so emotional to see the tremendous amount of support from friends and family. We are at a loss for words and cannot Thank everyone enough. We both feel hopeful that maybe something will come of this in the form of a resolution soon for all couples in this situation. To be able to move on with our dreams without the fear of losing what we have would be such a blessing. Thanks to everyone- just doesn’t seem like enough.

      August 1, 2012
  • Anahid

    Sadly I know ur story too well I have family members that have been deported and treated like crap. I’m trying to change that since I’m trying to become a naturalized u.s. citizen but since I’m a minority I feel I don’t get the same respect, all I can offer u is my support cus just like u I know how unfair the government can be… I will pray for you and Nedo and hope for change as well and let me just say that I believe in equal rights and if we have the right to be married why not a gay person? With all due respect, just like me u pay taxes and work ur ass off.
    God bless u and ur husband and please consider myself a friend and someone who is also hoping for change

    August 1, 2012
    • Jon Evans

      Anahid,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. We always have to fight for our rights and never give up. I would have never imagined we would touch so many peoples lives- its truly a miracle and has restored our faith in humanity.

      Hang in there and just do the next right thing! Thats all we can do.

      Hugs,

      Jon and Nedo

      August 2, 2012
  • Michael Hansen

    Your story is so sad yet it’s makes me so mad, knowing what you are going through. My Partner is Filipino. We couldn’t even get a student visa for him to come live with me in Miami. After talking with an attorney and seeing that we had no options, I decided the hell with this bigoted country and left. I rented my house and gave up my business and friends. We are happily living together in Bangkok Thailand. We would like to return but until DOMA is gone we can’t. My biggest disappointment is in our own community. Where is the outrage that we are being treated like this? I know I made the right decision in leaving. Time is to precocious to waste, because of a bigoted country. I feel nothing for my country and wonder if I will ever be able to get over how mad I am at this blatant discrimination.We are so happy just being together and Thailand is such a tolerant country. I wish both of you the best and hope things will work out for all of us that are in this awful situation. Take care,
    Michael & Erick

    August 1, 2012
    • Jon Evans

      Michael,

      I have a good friend in Thailand! Friend me on Facebook and I will introduce you to him- he is a great guy (American living in Thailand).

      Thank you for sharing your story. I hope that we can connect and learn more about each others stories. Anything we can do to help just let us know.

      Thank you for your kindness.

      Love,

      Jon and Nedo

      August 2, 2012
  • Noel

    What a beautiful couple. I pray everyday that things will change faster here in the United States for everyone who is being denied their right to love whom they choose. Good luck fellows!!

    August 1, 2012
    • Jon Evans

      Thank you Noel!

      We appreciate the love and kindness. Thank you for sharing our miracle with us!

      Jon and Nedo

      August 2, 2012
  • John R. Crap0

    Awwww. These guys are friends. And give the “Seven Year Itch” a new and GOOD meaning.

    August 1, 2012
    • Jon Evans

      John, John, John !!!

      How can we count the ways we love thy wit and humor. You are a funny man and we hope that you have peace and happiness in your life. Please let us know when you come to SF so we can do lunch!

      Hugs!

      Jon and Nedo

      August 2, 2012
  • Sarah Annear

    Jon & Nedo we love you guys so much & I am just appalled at how our country is treating you & every other couple out there affected by DOMA.
    KEEP UP THE FIGHT!!!!

    August 1, 2012
    • Jon Evans

      Thank you Sarah!

      We miss you and hope to see you soon!

      Hugs!

      Jon and Nedo

      August 2, 2012
  • Davor

    I am Croatian and this is almost exactly my story. Matthew and I are struggling like lions while still trying to stay on the legal size. Unfortunately we don’t have money for the tuition but I have a cruise ship job that helps me stay 6 months at the time in USA and 6 months on the ship working as a crew member. That’s the way we live for the last 3 years since we met each other. My hope is now in the Supreme Court and their upcoming ruling on DOMA. All I can say is “God help us!”. I beleive…

    August 1, 2012
    • Jon Evans

      Davor,

      Thank you for sharing with us your situation- we are doing this for all of our families and will keep you in our hearts with regard to your situation.

      Hugs!!

      August 3, 2012
  • Trina

    Your story made me cry; it is so full of hope and heartache, love and misery. Never give up, my friends. The rights we have today were forged on the backs of those who came before us, who fought for equality. Full equality will hopefully be seen in our lifetime, but if not, will be surely be seen in the next one, because of our fight.

    August 1, 2012
    • Jon Evans

      Thank you so much for sharing your kind words! We appreciate everyone’s support and the response from strangers has extended our family across the globe.

      The thing that has amazed us is the beauty of this experience. The fact that people are sharing in our experience through many diferent hearts is what makes life meaningful.

      If we all could look at the world through our experiences together instead of our diferences- we would embrace our cosmic consciousness and make the world a better place.

      Not to sound so “new age” (not that there is anything wrong with that) but this experience has left us both feeling so in touch with the world.

      We are blessed. Everyone is really touching our hearts and we will be forever in debt.

      Love Jon and Nedo

      August 2, 2012
  • Trina

    By the way, your story does still show up on George Takei’s Facebook page, it’s in the recent posts by others section.

    August 1, 2012
  • Doris

    I still remember the day Nedo went to US…. I saw him at the airport Dubrovnik. I will never forget that smile on his face when he told me he is going to SFO, that joy in his eyes cause he just started to chase his dream to be with someone he loves (even though he was leaving his home, family, friends)…. I’m sad to hear you have so many problems but somehow I believe everything will end up as we all wish for! I admire your strenght and courage, don’t even think to give up! You have full support from us back home. Hope to see you soon, both of you!

    August 2, 2012
    • Jon Evans

      Doris!!

      Ti si moje screce!

      I didnt know that you saw Nedo at the airport-lol. Thank you for taking time to comment. We miss you- we miss everyone in Croatia.

      You were there playing your Harp at the square when I met Nedo. I was so nervous telling you- my first Croatian best friend about him, lol. You have been a very important person in our lives and we hope to see you one day soon.

      Hugs! (did you share our story-lol)

      August 2, 2012
  • Jon Evans

    Just thought I would post the collage done of our Wedding with our song!

    http://animoto.com/play/t1FFW1ehc5IZFtrw5o2OEg

    August 2, 2012
  • Dear Jon & Nedo, It was truly my honor to celebrate your love & wedding day in Central Park, NYC! I hold in my heart the memory of your tears, your joy, your happiness. As a Marriage Equality advocate & activist, I stand with you in honoring your marriage and your rights. You are in my thoughts, prayers, and actions.
    With Love, Rev. Annie Lawrence, NYC Wedding Officiant

    August 2, 2012
    • Jon Evans

      Rev. Annie Lawrence –
      The vows you wrote for us were so very special and we cherish them with all our heart. Your guidance through the process was like a sweet gentle hand that led us through the most special moment in our lives. You walked around Bow Bridge with us till we found the perfect spot. When you announced us as Husbands across the Lake to the people standing on the Bridge watching- we felt so special and just can’t Thank you enough for the ceremony. Much hugs and love to you!

      Love Jon and Nedo!

      August 2, 2012
  • Susan

    You are a beautiful couple. Always remeber that anything worth having is worth fighting for.

    August 2, 2012
    • Jon Evans

      Thank you Susan!

      Dance like nobody is watching…

      We appreciate your kindness and words of wisdom.

      Love,

      Jon and Nedo

      August 2, 2012
  • What a beautiful couple, I wish you a lifetime of memories, happiness, joy and simple abundance!

    Love,
    Tina

    August 3, 2012
  • M.

    Jon and Nedo – I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you and all the other couples in a similar situation. My own experience as a partner in a binational same sex couple was so extremely painful due to the fact that for 10 years I could only stay in the USA with my partner for several months at a time… We managed to keep our love alive for almost 11 years under such conditions. Then a bad moment came in our lives – I was denied a new visa, my partner was diagnosed with a serious disorder… now we are on two opposite sides of the globe, and I am heartbroken. No one should have to go through such a thing in the 21st century, in “civilized world”. I never overstayed my visa, I never broke any laws, all I wanted was to be with the person I love. I was told my ties to my home country were not strong enough. The fact that my partner had given me the affidavit of support was used against me. In what world is commitment a crime?

    August 18, 2012
    • Jon

      M. You are not alone and I hope that one day soon we will all have options to not live in fear or be separated from the ones we love.

      Jon and Nedo

      August 22, 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.