After 12 Years, Ari and Nir Fight for a Future Together, File Green Card Petition Based on Their Marriage
I am an American citizen. I was born in this country and mostly raised in Israel. I think of myself as a hybrid, an IsrAmerican. My parents, family and friends live in Israel, but the US is my origin and New York City my life long inspiration, a place I have always considered home.
I spent many of my formative years in Israel. It’s where I went to grade school, high school, and eventually the army, where I fulfilled mandatory military service from the of age 18 to 21. The Israeli army, of all places, is where I became socially open about being gay. I was a very proactive gay rights enthusiast during my service, making a sincere effort to educate my commanders and colleagues of my views about what being gay is and what is is not. The Israeli Defense Force is comprised of almost all of the secular population and some of the religious population of Israel and it allows — as I was surprised to discover — a lot of room for individuality. At least after you finish basic training.
Soon after finishing my three years of service, I met Nir at a friend’s party held at a friend’s house. Nir, then still in the closet, saw the DJ stand that I had made for myself at the party and he was drawn to see what music I had brought to play. It wasn’t long before I started flirting with him and that night was my last as a single man. Two weeks later, on July 1st, 2000, we made it official to our friends, who needed no announcement. Neither of us had any idea where life would lead us at this point, but over the next eight years we would build a foundation of trust, honesty, comfort, safety, and unending love. As we were building this foundation, I confided in Nir that it was hard for me to imagine living in Israel for the long haul.
In 2008, after graduating from Tel Aviv University with a degree in opera performance and classical conducting, I met a voice teacher who was visiting Israel. He invited me to join the opera program he was managing in Brooklyn as a graduate student. I was unable to refuse. The program began three weeks later.
Nir and I successfully sustained a long distance relationship between August 2008 and August 2010. We each made trans-Atlantic trips two to three times a year, skyped and talked on the phone every day at length (which I personally think is the key to surviving long distance), and stretched out our vacation time from work just a bit more than our bosses wanted. After so many years together, it became clearer than ever that Nir was the person I wanted to grow old with and vice versa. On Nir’s second visit to New York, in the spring of 2009, I asked him to marry me and he said yes. We got married (the filling out papers part) in the Town Hall of Greenwich, Connecticut, and got actually married (the teary family and friends part) in the summer, in my mother’s back yard, in Israel.
After two years of maintaining our relationship over the ocean, we desperately needed to live together again. Nir was lucky enough to find a temporary position with the Israeli consulate in New York in the fall of 2010, which made it easy for him to move here, but the position did not become permanent. He applied for a change of status to a student visa which does not allow him to work.
New York is our home. It’s not easy living here on one paycheck, it sucks not being able to visit friends and family, but there has never before been a time in which we loved our lives as much as we do now.
We are in our mid 30s. Thoughts of starting a family are always on the horizon of our plans, just beyond reach. How can we think of creating a stable environment for a new person when our own stability has been on hold for years?
And so we decided to fight — not wait — for the wheels of justice to turn. After the right to marry came to New York state, we petitioned for a marriage-based visa. On December 7, the momentous day that the Supreme Court made public its decision to take on the Windsor challenge to the so called Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA), challenging the constitutionality of a marriage being recognized by New York state but not the federal government, Nir and I received a Notice of Decision in the mail. We were denied because, “Your spouse is not a person of the opposite sex. Therefore, under the DOMA your petition must be denied. We do not consider it necessary to determine whether your marriage is lawful under state law, or whether the beneficiary would be a ‘spouse’ under the INA absent the DOMA…”
We are appealing this decision in our fight for a better and more just future. We urge the Obama administration to put our case on hold, and make a final decision only when the Supreme Court has finished its work. Offensive denial letters like the one we received have no place in America in 2012. This should end now.
I’m not very good at complaining. My friends will vouch for this. I also know how lucky Nir and I are. We have a roof over our heads, food on our table, and friends and family that come to us when we don’t come to them. Most of all, we have each other both in essence of spirit and in physical presence – something many binational same sex couples are not fortunate enough to be able to say. I remain hopeful that “marriage inequality” will not uproot my sense of home and force me to test my optimism in exile. All this said, as long as my government doesn’t treat me as an equal citizen, I have no choice but to live with the constant option of leaving my home. This is something that no American should ever be forced to do. We joined The DOMA Project because we believe it is important to speak out. We encourage all who are reading this to become part of this effort. There is no reason to wait, there is no one else who will do this work. This is our time.