Exiled to Paris Because of DOMA, Ruben and Bruno Share Their Dream to Return to the U.S.
My name is Ruben and I am a citizen of the United States of America. Over 6 years ago, Bruno and I met in Los Angeles and it may sound cliché but it was “love at first sight”. Bruno is from Belgium and was in the US on a work visa, working hard at managing a US business here. I was a successful real estate agent selling beautiful homes in Beverly Hills.
We really “clicked” and it was just a matter of months before we moved in together. We even got a small dog and spent wonderful weekends in our California desert house.
After a year of living together, Bruno asked me if I would move to Europe with him. He felt the need to go back to his roots for a little while and be close to his family as he had been away for so many years. I didn’t hesitate and told him I would be up for it, as long as I could stay close to him. We were really in love, and being separated was not something we could ever conceive.
When he found a job in Paris, we were both excited to move to the “City of Lights”. Paris is an amazing city to visit but moving here from Los Angeles wasn’t easy. I didn’t speak French, and the culture is very different; but I was up to discovering new things as long as I was with my loved one.
We married in Belgium in 2008 where gay marriage had been legal for many years and so it was nothing out of the ordinary for the Belgians. I got to know Bruno’s family and got close with everyone. We choose the Greek islands as our honeymoon destination, and we will forever keep wonderful memories of that trip. Really, it was an amazing feeling to get married as a gay couple, something I never dreamed would happen in my lifetime.
Though my adjustment to our new life in France was not easy, I eventually learned French. One nice thing about France is that even though gay marriage is not yet recognized there, French immigration law prohibits families from being separated–seems pretty obvious, right? So I was able to get residency and legally work. After a few months I joined the real estate company I used to work for in California as they were opening a branch in Paris. And after selling beautiful homes in Beverly Hills, I was lucky enough to be selling amazing apartments in Paris. We know that many couples in a similar situation of exile have not been so fortunate.
After almost 5 years of living in Europe, we both missed the US and wanted to come back. I especially wanted to return since I was never able to completely adapt here. We were planning on moving to NYC as there were work opportunities in both our fields and being on the East Coast would make it easy to go visit our family in Belgium.
As I am U.S. citizen, it had never occurred to me that I would not be able to bring my husband with me to my own country but because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), that is the case. Even though Bruno has a terrific resume and has no problem getting job offers from U.S. employers, our broken immigration system makes it incredibly difficult for him to get a visa these days.
If my sister had a Belgian husband, she could sponsor him for a green card without any problem, but because DOMA was signed into law in 1996, I now have to choose between my own country and my own husband. This is not a matter of a traditional institution of marriage but a matter of equality and civil rights. It is now time to strike down DOMA.
Friends and family in the U.S. and here in Europe always seem surprised when we tell them about the situation we are facing with DOMA. As marriage equality is recognized in more U.S. states, people think that it would be easy for us to move to one of those states and have our marriage recognize there. Sadly, this is not the case. However, by sharing our story, we continue to increase awareness of DOMA’s unjust consequences for binational couples and push for change. Please join us by sharing our story with your family and friends. The more hearts and minds we’re able to reach between now and the upcoming Supreme Court ruling, the better our post-DOMA outlook will be. There is no time to lose.