BRING THEM HOME: Binational Gay Family Exiled to UK Urges President Obama to Grant Humanitarian Parole
My name is Sarah. I’m 33 years old and a former resident of Tiverton, Rhode Island. I grew up in Rhode Island and attended Tiverton public schools from kindergarten until my graduation from Tiverton High in 1997. I went to Rhode Island College for four years as an Elementary Education major with a focus on children with Special Needs. I worked for Girl Scouts of Rhode Island (GSRI) every summer for almost 10 years and did hundreds, possibly thousands – I never counted, hours of volunteer work for GSRI as well.
It was through my work with Girl Scouts that I met my wife, Emma. In 2001 Emma, who is a British citizen, worked for the summer at Camp Hoffman in Kingston, Rhode Island. I was also working there as a lifeguard. We spent the summer as co-workers, and towards the end of her time in the States we grew close. When the camp closed for the summer in August, she spent the next two months living with me and my family until her visa expired in October. After an extremely emotional and teary departure that month, we knew that this was a relationship we would try anything to continue. Through letters, emails, and phone calls our relationship grew, and for the next 4 years, we spent all our spare money flying back and forth over the “pond” to see each other as often as possible.
I spent summers here in England, meeting her friends and family, only to have to return back to Tiverton to be back at my job in the schools I was working in. She would use up all of her vacation days at work to spend time with my family and me back in the States. In 2005, after years of very-long-distance relationship work, we had decided that we needed to either move to be with each other, or end the relationship that we had strived to build. We discussed it, and decided it would be best if Emma moved to America.
It never crossed my mind that it wouldn’t be possible due to the fact that we are gay. I learned that immigration rights are a federal issue, and even if we could get married in the State of Rhode Island, with a certificate just as any other married couple had, we would not be eligible for a spousal visa. She came to the US for a year on a student visa, but we couldn’t afford the international tuition for more than a year. Our world fell from under us. We had set our minds on Emma moving to America for so many reasons – I had a full time job in special needs education that would pay the bills and insure us both, my family was supportive of our relationship, Emma would be able to work or continue with college as well. We never fathomed that it wouldn’t work due to the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). We still intended to get married and eventually live together; we were planning our future just like any young couple in love. However, my government and DOMA forced me into quitting my job, leaving my family, and moving to England so that I could be with my wife.
We married in the State of Massachusetts, and two months later I made the flight to my new home here in England. That was in 2006. I have now lived her for almost 7 years, and we have an almost three-year-old son together. He’s a dual citizen, as the UK recognizes our union for what it is, and he is therefore eligible to benefit from it. To be completely honest, neither of us wants to live here. My line of work lets me live anywhere in the world, so returning to the States wouldn’t be a financial burden. But right now, we do not have a path forward to returning to our home.
President Obama said on the White House website, “that Americans with partners from other countries should not be faced with a painful choice between staying with their partner or staying in their country.” But Emma and I were forced into that very position and are living this reality every day. If President Obama would direct the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State to begin offering exiled same-sex couples humanitarian parole, my wife and I could start our lives in Rhode Island with our son; our home. There may not be a final resolution until DOMA is struck down by the Supreme Court or repealed by Congress. But we are sharing our story because our marriage and our family and our future is worth fighting for now, and because our son deserves to be raised in America.
We join The DOMA Project in asking you to help spread our story and fight for humanitarian parole to end the exile and separation of gay binational couples. We are asking that you tweet our story to my congressional representatives in Rhode Island, urging them to advocate for humanitarian parole to the White House now. We should not be required to wait another day to come home.
— The DOMA Project (@GayBinationals) March 7, 2013
Sarah & Emma