Engaged to be Married, Lesbian Couple Separated by the U.S.-Canadian Border Fights to be Reunited
I met and fell in love with Stacey online through a social network in January 2010. We talked off and on, but our conversations were brief at first as neither of us was ready to jump into a relationship. Over the next several months, we began spending more time talking to one another online and on the phone. Stacey lives in Winnipeg, Canada and I live in northwestern Arkansas.
By August of 2010 we realized that were crazy about one another and desperate to meet face to face. We held out as long as possible and then on October 17, 2010 she traveled to the United States for the first time to visit me; it was the beginning of many visits to come, but also the beginning of a long road that would include many emotionally trying moments when we were kept apart by border officials.
We came from vastly different worlds. With a fifteen year age difference we have had different experiences in life and our families in Arkansas and Manitoba are very different as well. My family is very conservative and holds strong religious beliefs and values, and are very much about “being in everyone’s business” though also very affectionate and friendly. Her family is more reserved, but also conservative in their own right. Stacey’s family comes from a traditional Catholic background and keep private lives fairly private.
But through all the differences, we found that we loved each other for the differences, and quickly realized that time apart was not what we wanted. She went back to Canada a month after coming to visit, only to fly back just after Christmas. We learned from one another. I am still trying to learn to be more spontaneous and she is learning to plan more. I guess that’s where our age difference comes in; but we never let our differences cause a rift, and for some reason, our differences only made us love one another more.
Over the next couple of years, she would come to Arkansas and I would go visit her in Canada. However, when she was in Arkansas she wanted to stay here with me. She really only wanted to go home to visit her family briefly. I took her to as many places as I could. Graceland, Beale Street, Tunica, San Antonio, Corpus Christi (she had never seen the ocean before). We traveled; we laughed, made memories, and fell more and more in love each day.
This past June I proposed to Stacey, and she accepted. I was so nervous. I had planned out in my head exactly what I was going to do, but when the moment came everything I planned went out the window. Thank goodness she said yes to my bumbling proposal.
In June of 2012 she flew home again to see her family, as she had done some many times before. I joined her in Canada in late July for a week’s visit and we were to return back to Arkansas. But that day, July 31, 2012, was the start of our problems. She was questioned for about half-hour by the Customs and Border Patrol at the Winnipeg Airport. He let her come on through, but advised that the next time she came she needed to have proof she had strong ties to her home in Canada.
We flew back, but we were both very upset about what had happened. We had no idea that we should have been very grateful for being allowed through that time and that we should have sought legal help the first sign of trouble. Instead, we dug ourselves in deeper and ended up with a crisis that seems to defy any solution.
December 2012 came around and again Stacey’s visit with me came to an end. She left to spend Christmas with her family. Something inside begged her to stay, my family told her to stay, but she went. On January 3, 2013, when she attempted to return to the U.S., the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer who questioned her found her ineligible to enter as a visitor. He asked her how much money she had on her, and reviewed her documentation showing she lived in Winnipeg, but still he felt that the fact that she had a American fiancée was a sign that she intended to stay permanently (she volunteered that information to be honest). He offered (again, we realized later that we should have been very grateful for this) to withdraw her application for admission as a visitor and let her go home to try again another time in the future. Stacey misunderstood the situation and tried again almost immediately. This time she was barred from entering the U.S. for five years. The CBP thought she had misrepresented her intention (she told the truth that she was going to a casino in Iowa where we had booked accommodations for two days) because she had not told them that she was visiting me on this trip.
Trust me when I say, a lesson has been learned the hard way through tears and pain. The lesson we have learned is that being discriminated against as a lesbian couple; because of the Defense of Marriage Act, because I am unable to file a fiancée visa petition and bring the love of my life here the way the law provides for all other couples in our situation, forced us to make do with short visits. But we never broke any law; all we wanted was to spend time together.
We have cried every day knowing we are separated by a harsh, mean and unforgiving immigration law that just compounds the evil of DOMA. Knowing that we can only see one another three times a year for a couple of weeks at a time (when I can go up there). We are getting married in Winnipeg on March 21, 2013. It will be a joyous celebration but it will be bittersweet; my wife will be in exile, in a prison of sorts, and I will be among the thousands of lesbian and gay Americans whose life-partners are in the Spousal Diaspora.
If DOMA was struck down by the court, or Congress passed immigration reform that includes same-sex partners, we might have a chance; though the 5-year ban is now an added problem with its own set of inflexible rules.
Our love, unlike these laws, knows no border, and I will fight for us to be together. I don’t want to leave the United States, but I will if I am forced to do so, if it means the only way for us to be together.
I have never loved anyone in my life as much as I love Stacey. Even my mother, who is not keen on same-sex relationships, loves Stacey as her own daughter and has stated that she has never seen me happier.
Now, I am alone and taking care of the puppy, Precious, Stacey and I found last year. Precious misses her Mama. I miss her more than words can possibly describe. We need President Obama to open the process of Humanitarian Parole so that we can bring our partners here temporarily until DOMA is gone. We urge everyone reading this story to join The DOMA Project to end the separations that are tearing our lives apart.