In Texas, Joe & Gabriel Celebrate Five Years Together, But DOMA Threatens their Future
Five years ago, on April 5th, 2008 I was enjoying my last afternoon in my first New York trip and I decided to spend it at an Expo at the Javits Center. I never thought that day my life was going to change forever.
My name is Gabriel Zamora and I am from Mexico. I was working as an EFL/ESL Teacher in Mexico. Joe Lee, my partner, is from New York, and he is a banker.
That afternoon at the Expo I bought a sandwich and a soda for lunch and I sat at one of the tables. I started eating my food when I noticed the guy seating in front of me was staring at me. I got intrigued about it because it was the first time in my life I was in a situation like this one. We looked at each other for some time until our eyes crossed and I smiled. Then, I saw he was getting ready to leave with his friends, and I saw him approaching to me. He didn’t say anything to me; he just gave me a piece of folded paper and walked away. I opened the paper and it said “You look better when you smile” and his phone number.
I got so excited and I did not know what to do. That evening I went to the theater and I could not focus on the play. I called him that evening and we decided to meet. When our eyes met, we knew we were soul mates. We went for a hot chocolate to Starbucks and we talked and talked. It felt like we knew each other for a long time.
He took me to the airport next morning and that goodbye was so difficult for both of us. When I went back to Mexico, we started a long distance relationship through phone texts and Skype. We traveled back and forth regularly. We spend thousands of dollars and got into debt due to the high costs of plane tickets.
I started looking for options to move to America. I wanted to come legally and I could not find any options in New York. A friend of mine told me about an Alternative Certification program in Texas to become a bilingual teacher that sponsors work visas. I applied and got selected to come to Texas. Joe moved down to Texas to be with me. In 2009, I quit my safe job in Mexico and we moved to Texas to start our life together.
Joe is the most beautiful man in the universe. He is tall, kind, and he has the biggest and most beautiful heart ever. He protects me and fills my life with love, happiness, joy, and laughs. He is not 100% healthy though. He has Marfan’s syndrome, Chiary type 1 malformation and fibromyalgia. He needs medical attention in a regular basis so moving to Mexico is not an option for us.
We have two dogs that we love so much. They are our kids. We bought Jerry in Mexico at a Walmart’s parking lot. She is a multi-poo who couldn’t even walk when we got her. Our second dog, Stephan, is a Manchester-terrier. They are both spoiled by their dads.
We could say we are fortunate we are both working and living a life as normal as possible. However, I might lose my job this summer and with that I will lose my immigration status. I am looking for other options but I haven’t found anything in concrete yet. I may be facing the same decision thousands of binational gay couples face: stay in the country without a visa or return to my country and be separated from the man I love.
Last week, Joe and I celebrated our fifth anniversary. We went to celebrate in Las Vegas and we had a great time. We have shared some fun and great memories during a few trips we have made together. We have visited Atlantic City, Mazatlan Mexico, and Shreveport. But this trip to Las Vegas was really special because 5 years is a lot of time together and I can’t imagine my life without Joe and our dogs. We are the Lee-Zamora family and as a family we move forward together.
DOMA does not let us live our lives without the constant fear of the “what if.” What if I lose my job and have to go back to Mexico? What if Joe gets sick and I have no rights to be with him at the hospital? What if we want to buy a house but there is no job security and I can’t get any other job due to my immigration status? What if I want to study for a Master’s degree but I can’t access any student loans?
What if… what if… what if… This sort of insecurity makes it hard not to feel like Joe is a second class citizens in his own country, and that our family does not count. We know better. We know that our love for each other is strong and that we deserve the same respect and equal protection of the laws.
We hope and pray that the Supreme Court strikes DOMA down because we want to get married in New York, where we met, and our plan is for Joe to file a green card petition for me on the basis of our marriage. Our goals are reasonable; we want to be treated like everybody else. Only then we would be able to start making plans to establish ourselves in a place for good. Buying a house or a car is not an option right now.
One thing is for sure. Our family, the Lee-Zamora family, will stick together. We thank The DOMA Project for everything to help encourage binational couples to face and fight back and against the horrible consequences of DOMA. Thank you to the whole team for all your support and hard work, and to the huge community of binational gay couples out there. We are going to win this together! Above all, thank you for reading this far. Please share our story when and where you can as it is the best way to make sure that when DOMA is gone, binational couples like us will be able to make the transition as smoothly as possible.