Jen and Rachel: Making Every Day Count in the Fight to Defeat DOMA

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Jen and Rachel at the United States Supreme Court on March 27, 2013

You could call it fate, coincidence or the stars aligning, but against all odds (including two broken down subway lines), our paths happened to cross in the most unlikely little corner of Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York. Whatever led us to Ginger’s Bar on that hot, sunny July afternoon ultimately altered our lives forever. When I met Rachel, there was no denying immediately the connection we shared. I was so comfortable being near her. It was instantly as if we had known each other for a lifetime.

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Like most Americans would be, I was enamored with her Liverpool accent. I was taken by her beautiful blue eyes and her witty rapport. We spent a few hours together at the bar before we had to go our separate ways. The next morning I was off to St. Louis to see my nephew for the week. Rachel and I spent the whole week on the phone, texting, talking and sending pictures back and forth. We got to know a lot about each other before we even had our first date; the night I got back from St. Louis. The connection between Rachel and I was so strong that I told my dad, within the first two weeks we were dating, that I was going to marry her.

7Marry is exactly what we did, only five months later on December 22, 2011. Rachel’s family had a trip planned to come in from the U.K. and since it was glaringly obvious to Rachel and I that we would be together for the rest of our lives, we didn’t see any point in waiting. During her parents annual holiday trip we decided we would go to City Hall, with our close friends and our families present and make it official.

It felt so great to able to say “my wife Rachel.” Over sixteen months later the excitement of being able to say the words “my wife” with pride have not lessened to any degree. Marriage is so sacred and so important, but it is so because of the two people who make it that way, not because of any other defined characteristic.

I have always been proud to be an American and I love my country. I love that we can have all types of people who can disagree so deeply about certain topics and we can each speak out about that. I truly respect this country for that. I am proud to say that I won a gold medal for my country in 2010, when I was selected as one of 45 women in this country to participate in the first ever international Women’s World Championship of Tackle Football (hopefully a prelude to football becoming an Olympic sport). I don’t want to have to make the choice to leave this country to be with my wife, but if I must make that decision, I will go wherever she goes, or wherever she is forced to go. I believe that this country will get it right and not force us to make that decision. Unfortunately, Rachel overstayed the authorized stay as a visa waiver visitor. She was planning on leaving the U.S. to go back to the U.K. despite her love for this country, because she was tired of living in fear of deportation. That was when Rachel and I met and it was obvious that this is where she is supposed to be.

Rachel and I live our lives very much like any other married couple. We live in a nice one bedroom apartment in New Jersey with our two cats. We spend time with my parents, extended family & friends on a weekly basis. We talk about our finances and what we would like our future to look like. We both have a passion for life & we live it to the fullest. As a cancer survivor, and having nearly lost my mom to five brain aneurisms this past November, I take nothing for granted. Both Rachel and I know that it’s important to find new ways to make each other laugh and get the most out of every moment we are blessed to spend together.

Rachel is a talented artist whose work has been exhibited throughout galleries in Chelsea and Tribecca, and her work has been featured on the MTV show “Downtown Girl,” and on USA Network’s Royal Pains. Rachel regularly donates artwork and her time to non-profit organizations. Rachel has had to turn down lucrative contract offers, as well as, overseas and long distant private commissions for her artwork, because of DOMA.

Like many other gay binational couples, we have been closely following the DOMA cases as they made their way through the courts from the beginning. When we learned in December that the U.S. Supreme Court was going to hear the challenge to the constitutionality of DOMA and Prop 8 we were elated and just knew that we had to be there.

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On March 26, 2013, Rachel and I jumped in the car after work and headed down to Washington D.C.  After checking into our hotel, and following a wonderful dinner, we decided to head down to the court after dark to just breathe it in. I will never forget the moment Rachel and I walked up the stairs towards the Supreme Court. Its colossal size reminded me of the colossal moment in history we were facing. As an attorney, well aware of the legal fight that would be going on inside those enormous walls, and as an American citizen so deeply affected by the fight, I instantly became overwhelmed by the gravity of that moment in history and I began to sob uncontrollably. Rachel grabbed me and we embraced on the steps of the Supreme Court. The moment was captured on camera by John Zangas, of the DC Media Group, who was nearby filming those that were lined up in hopes of being admitted to the oral argument the next morning on the Windsor case.

Photo: John Zangas, DC media group

The following morning we were up in the early hours and on the steps of the Supreme Court to be a part of this historic day. The energy was electric. Thousands of supporters rallying together for Edie Windsor & the rights of our community. After waiting online for almost three hours we were fortunate enough to get our hands on a five minute pass into the oral argument. It was such an incredible, humbling experience to be a part of what we hope will be the decision that will change this great country’s history in the right direction.

We continue to advocate and share our story over social media and encourage other binational couples to do the same. Every day from now until the Court rules, is a day that we can contribute to the defeat of DOMA. If we sit back and wait, we are failing ourselves. In the end, to perfect the idea of the more perfect union, to bring about change, and to achieve full equality for LGBT families, we must be fully engaged. We encourage others to share their story and to join The DOMA Project. Every day counts.

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Jen and Rachel

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This is a pro-bono project of the law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC. Posts on this website are offered for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. The law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC has offices in New York and Los Angeles. Our practice is limited to U.S. Immigration & Nationality Law.