Rick & Brian: Married Gay Couple Exiled by DOMA for Three Years in Taiwan, Fight to Return to the U.S.
Our story began in the streets of Atlanta, Georgia on May 19, 2009. In actuality, we had met a couple of days earlier in a chat room on an online dating site. Back then we both paid for the yearly service and were able to see who searched us. I saw that Brian looked at my profile and I contacted him. I asked if he would like to meet at a bookstore and coffee house. He said, “sure let’s go.” I set the time and date: May 19 at noon. We both agreed and confirmed our plan the following morning. We met at OutWrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse, at 10th and Piedmont, which is unfortunately no longer open. But what blossomed from that first meeting is very much still alive.
As my on-line profile informed anyone interested in reading it, I had recently moved to Atlanta from Southern California and I was looking to make new friends. That’s all I truly wanted at that moment. I was trying to accomplish four things: employment, housing, schooling and then hopefully, dating someone special. I was very focused, and I kept to the order of my priorities.
On the day of what would be our first date, Brian got lost and arrived 45 minutes late, but it didn’t much matter; I was happy to see him and glad he arrived safely.
When Brian opened the door that afternoon at OutWrite he flashed his big, friendly smile, a smile that I have come to love and looking forward to seeing every day. He described his efforts to get from his home in Atlanta to OutWrite, and I realized that this amounted to quite a challenge; after all, he had just arrived a week earlier from Taiwan and was completely new to Atlanta and to the U.S.
We started to talk about our lives and what brought us to Atlanta when I realized that I was nervous like a high school student on a first date! At first I didn’t understand what was happening at all. I’m always confident, energized and I know what to say next. But it wasn’t happening, I was stumbling around. I was an A Type personality and the date progressed, I noticed that I was doing most of the talking and didn’t let him speak much so I started asking him questions. I learned that he was a visiting scholar from one of the top Taiwanese universities, and I found out about his family background. Of course this friendly meet-up was never supposed to be a date, I was not supposed to be nervous!
A few hours later we were joined by some mutual friends. I became more confident and I realized that Brian and I were connecting. He seemed more interested in me than before, and after they left he said something like: ‘Your heart will be safe in my hands’. We parted ways after more than four hours but it felt like only 15 minutes had passed. Time stood still, and still does; thank goodness.
We continued to communicate by email and grew closer. I shared my excitement as I learned to love Atlanta and settled into a new job. He shared his daily adventures with me.
Our first proper date was a political rally for the next mayor of Atlanta in 2009 geared towards the LGBT Community. Each candidate was asked questions specifically about the LGBT Community and their stance towards marriage equality. After that rally, a group of us went to dinner at Rain Restaurant and had an awesome time. We were supposed to go to a gay bar, but couldn’t; Brian had forgotten his identification and was denied entry. It was too bad for our friends, because we were happy to be alone for the rest of the evening.
We drove home and kissed good night and I felt butterflies. We were both very emotional. I know it’s hard to believe but 30 days later we moved into our apartment and started living together. It just felt right. We felt like rock stars!
Spending every day together and falling in love it seemed like nothing could get in the way of our happiness. That summer I got down on one knee and asked Brian to marry me. A few months later we purchased wedding rings in Miami while visiting my family and at that particular moment we were with my brother and his wife. It was an amazing feeling to know that we had found each other and that we would be a part of my family, while also building our own life together as a couple.
But as any gay binational couple knows, the moment came when things got very complicated. Our blissful state started to be challenged by serious challenges that had to happen. Brian’s visa was expiring. We either had to break up, maintain a long distance relationship between Atlanta and Taiwan, or I would have to move to Asia. These were extremely difficult months for us. All we wanted was to be together. We decided to move to Taiwan in 2010. It would be a life changing life experience for sure, for both of us.
In January 2010 we traveled to California and spent some time with friends before continuing on to Taiwan to begin our lives in a new country. As the trip progressed both of us were excited, nervous, and full of uncertainties; but, we were troopers.
Neither one of us feels that we’ve made any sacrifices; yes, we feel that we’ve had to make adjustments and changes in our lives, but we have never compromised our love for each other. While we have lived in Taiwan we have had to deal with Brian’s mandatory military service, his travel restrictions, my effort to find employment, being forced to live in the “closet” as a gay couple, and my learning to adapt to a new language and culture. Why did all of this happen? Only because the U.S. government gives me no way as a gay American to sponsor my partner, the love of my life, for a green card. And so I am building a new life in Taiwan not of choice, but in exile.
You may be wondering, how or why put ourselves through these stresses. As cheesy as it sounds, it was love. This four letter word has a great foundation, everything based on it can turn any impossible situation into a foreseeable happy ending. Which in our case is true!
We think the hardest part for us, is that Brian’s family doesn’t know we are a couple or even know that we got married. A small price to pay for peace within our hearts and theirs. We don’t know how they will react, but just not confronting the situation head-on keeps the peace within our family. Peace is a key point for us.
How has DOMA affected our lives? Brian never wanted to come back to Taiwan. He did not want to return to the closet. My life has been turned upside down because of U.S. laws that refuse to recognize same-sex couples. To say this is unfair is an understatement.
Within a year we are hoping that we will be able to return to the United States.
This has been the biggest impact of DOMA for us has been the lack of laws to protect our family. I can’t help Brian in anything, except for being a financial guarantee for his ability to stay in the USA as a student. This for me is not a way to be able to start a new life within the USA. It scares me to hell and back and sometimes it seems like I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. The uncertainties mount and so do the stresses within our lives, in two levels – as individuals and as a couple. For now we have made the commitment to each other to stay in Taiwan until one of us has a place of employment or the U.S. achieves federal marriage equality.
Recently, we made a list of pros and cons to see where we would feel more at home and start our family. We realized that adopting is not a choice; it’s a must for us. We’ve had to place it on the back burner for too long. This is the highest priority upon returning to the USA. We’ve tried in Taiwan and we’ve been told – flat out in a nice way – NO! The reality is that we cannot live closeted in Taiwan and also start a family. We know that, eventually, we will need to return to the US.
In sharing our story, we are joining the many binational couples who refuse to wait on the sidelines while the Supreme Court considers the fate of DOMA. We know that by sharing our story, we are making a difference in the court of public opinion, a voice that not even the Supreme Court can turn aside lightly. We’re encouraged to see the growing coverage of our collective struggle for fair and humane treatment by the Obama administration and the USCIS. Please join us in petitioning the Obama Administration to ensure that all green card petitions from same sex spouses are fully processed and placed on hold until the Supreme Court rules on DOMA in June of this year. Our family should not have to wait even a single day longer.
God Bless The United States of America.
This is our story – Brian and Rick
It all started on May 20th, 2009
Married on March 20th, 2012
New York City, New York