Recently Engaged, Indira and Kim Fight to be Together with Their Two Children in the U.S.
Like many couples in the twenty-first century, Indira and I met through an online dating site. It was an almost accidental meeting as she had joined a local southern California site not knowing that her profile would appear on a larger, international one. I saw her photo and found her interesting and very cute, but didn’t think I fit her criteria so it was a pleasant surprise when she sent a “smile.” That smile led to an exchange of several emails over the next few days (and the discovery I am from Barbados). Eventually, we connected via text messages and later by video chats. In spite of the time difference we talked for hours about anything and everything.
With my birthday coming up, I asked her if she wanted to come and celebrate with me and she did! The connection we felt across 3,900 miles only strengthened in person. We found something that we wanted to pursue. Over the next few months we talked about being together. Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be any good options for a long-term plan. Because of Prop 8, same-sex marriage was (and continues to be) banned in California. Due to DOMA, even if we married legally in another state or in another country, our lawful marriage would not be recognized by the federal government for immigration purposes. On the other hand, not only is same sex-marriage a far-fetched notion in Barbados, homosexuality is officially illegal. This left us with little choice but to either end our relationship or carry on long distance until circumstances change.
With the distance between us, as well as work and family commitments, we have been lucky enough to manage to alternate two trips each per year. But leaving each other and being apart has become increasingly difficult, and it is frustrating and heart-breaking not being there when the person you love and want to spend the rest of your life with needs you. The high cost of flying back and forth is also financially draining. Indira has joint custody of her two children, fifteen and twelve years old, and maintaining a relationship between two countries means that she has to choose between spending time and money to come visit me, or on the kids. If the same immigration laws—providing marriage-based green cards, or fiancé(e) visas to those intending to marry—that apply to heterosexual couples applied to same sex couples, our only choice would be where to go for a family vacation.
In spite of these challenges, Indira proposed and we got engaged six months ago. Connected via Skype, we looked online for hours for our perfect wedding bands. During our next visit together in California, we took a road trip up the coast. On the way back, we stopped at a jewelry store and had them made. Upon our return to San Diego, we took the rings out to admire them. Although Indira planned to propose while we were overlooking the ocean, she couldn’t stand to put them back in their boxes or wait another minute to ask. It was very sweet and very her. She was nervous about asking, even though we had talked about marriage and knew it was something we intended to do. Like I would’ve said no!
Indira told the kids the following day. The youngest commented that he wouldn’t have a step-mom, he’d have a second mom. Neither of the kids understands why two people who care for each other should be kept apart. We also shared the news with our friends and family who were excited about the engagement, but frustrated and upset about the restrictions imposed on our family by DOMA. My cousin, who is from Canada where marriage equality has been the law now for ten years, is still trying to wrap her head around the fact that our marriage would not make me eligible to apply for a green card. Friends from outside the U.S. often ask for updates on the progress.
Ideally, we would like to have a lovely outdoor wedding, under the trees, with close friends and family in attendance and begin our lives together without the fear of being separated.
We are hopeful that the increasing call for equality will encourage the Supreme Court to do the correct thing and strike down the travesty that is DOMA so that loving couples will be treated equally under the law, just as the Constitution guarantees. Like many couples involved with The DOMA Project, we are not content to sit by as the Justices consider the fate of DOMA. We have chosen to share our story and we will continue to press President Obama for intermediate solutions now, so that our family is not forced to be apart one day longer. Considering the range of executive actions available to the President as the Supreme Court considers DOMA and while Congress considers immigration reform legislation, it is absurd that we must continue traveling back and forth at such great financial and emotional cost. Executive actions like humanitarian parole and deferred action are within existing precedent and would immediately end the separation and exile of thousands of binational families like ours. The time to raise our voices is now. We ask that you share our story to raise awareness of the urgent need for such measures. There is no time to lose.