Carrie and Claire, Separated by DOMA for Seven Years, File for Green Card Based on Their Marriage
After an anguishing recent 15-month separation, both of our families could see how hard the time apart was on us and insisted on providing us with the funds we needed for Claire to come for Christmas and New Year holidays. Our families suffer right along with us; our pain is their pain. Claire arrived December 12, 2012 and was due to return to the U.K. on January 8, 2013.
Both of us are in financial dire straits, mine being fixed disability retirement while still supporting our college-student daughter and Claire’s being unemployed and, at over age 50, categorized as ‘low priority’ by ‘employment services’ in the UK. Nothing about our situation will change any time soon and we both were fighting severe depression. As stress exacerbates my flare-ups and diminished immune system, I remained ill most of the 15 months we were parted.
We are acutely aware of the years that have passed us by and the many milestone experiences unshared. After 5+ years of legal marriage and 7+ years as a committed couple, we have reached the point where we can no longer live apart. Enough is enough. Our health and age are constant reminders that time is precious and now is all we will ever have.
Claire is still here legally under the visa waiver. We are scared, excited, and honored to join other couples in fighting for full equality.
When last I wrote, one year ago, we thought we had a workable, interim plan. I would go to the UK every 6 months for 3 months at a time. This plan ran its course. We could not manage the separation, the travel and the cost any longer. And so we have made the decision to file for a green card. To put this decision into perspective, we share with you a post we wrote in February 2012.
I did return to the UK in June 2011, in time to celebrate my wife’s 50th birthday with her and my wonderful in-laws. This trip, I felt better prepared. I had made sure the wheelchair I needed was ready and waiting before even deplaning. I had everything available to show that I was in full compliance with the 6 month limit on my Visa waiver. Going through security would be a breeze. I watched a family ahead of me zip through the process, under 5 minutes for a family of 5. Yes, this would be so much better. The young man pushing my wheelchair through the airport wheeled me to the only agent working at that time. I am a disabled 56-year-old woman, rather conservative and conventional in my appearance. I have just spent 18 hours getting to this point and am in incredible pain and I’m exhausted. I am pleasant and polite.
I presented my passport and had my itinerary for my return flight handy. I had only stayed 85 days on my previous trip, so I wasn’t really worried about the fact that I was staying 90 days this time—still within the 6 months allowed. The agent never met my eyes, asking why I was returning so soon as I had only left 3 months previously. I answered honestly, “Visiting family and friends.” He challenged me about how I could afford to stay for 3 months and I explained about my disability direct deposit and my debit card. He did not seem satisfied. I offered to provide proof of my income, he declined. He needed Claire’s name and address, which I promptly provided. Every question he asked, I answered. I was starting to get concerned when he still refused to look at me and just kept looking at my passport and the other documents he requested. After what seemed hours, but was actually only about 45 minutes, he told me he would let me enter the country this time, but I would not be allowed to return to the UK again. Period (or, as Claire says, “Full Stop”). Not just, give more time between visits or stay out of the UK longer than I am in the UK or anything that was open to interpretation. This was the last time I would be allowed to enter the country. I was fighting tears as we wheeled away. My helper was appalled by the way I was treated and asked that I not judge all British by this experience. I was shaky, but I thanked him for his kindness.
We finally reached my beloved Claire, who was getting increasingly worried as everyone from my flight had long since passed and there was still no sign of me. When she saw my face, she knew it had been bad. Still, the long taxi ride to Peterborough was joyful–we were together and had the whole summer ahead of us. I arrived on Wednesday and Claire’s 50th birthday was the Saturday. Her mum and step-dad joined us to celebrate, my first meeting with my in-laws. To say we got along well is an understatement. I could not be more blessed and delighted to call them “family.” I’d spoken with them many times by telephone, but to finally meet them in person–it felt like it was my birthday! I only wish I hadn’t been so tired and still jet-lagged…. Still, it was wonderful, feeling the love and support from Mum and Dad. Our three-months flew as quickly as the previous stay and I had to leave my love the day before our 5th anniversary. (We count the date of our commitment ceremony, 7 September, 2006, as our official anniversary, even though we legally married in Canada 1 year and 1 week later on 15 Sept, 2007.) Leaving her this time was the hardest–we had no way of knowing when we would next be able to be together. It’s been nearly 6 months, now, and we still wait. Knowing I am unwelcome to visit the UK and having no recourse except to apply for a visa as a civil partner is hard. However, as soon as we are in a position to do so, we are applying for a Married Partner (spouse) Visa for me to be able to return to the UK and resume our interim plan.
We wait for the economy to improve, DOMA to go away, the passage of UAFA, anything to finally allow us to live peacefully in the US near our family. We wait for our time to join those who are fighting for our families.