Love at First Sight: Jamie and Vanessa Fight DOMA to Plan a Future Together
It all started in 2010, during the Women’s Football World Championship in Sweden over the summer. Six nations, including Austria and the U.S., competed against each other, and there she was. Jamie. After playing against her, seeing her off and on the field, watching her passion for this sport, the way she acted, I just couldn’t stop thinking about her.
Some people may think that there is no love at first sight, but I think that they are plainly wrong. I had nothing else in mind but to find her. Back in my home country of Austria, the journey began. My goal was to find this mysterious person, whose name I didn’t know – who’d turned my head and kept my undivided attention. I had the idea of looking up all those names that were published in a folder that was handed out to all the teams while we were in Sweden. After some time, I found Jamie on my personal Facebook ‘hunt’. When I sent her a friend request – I was so nervous! I tried my luck, and I was praying for her to answer. It didn’t take her long at all, but it took me days to actually gather all my courage and send her a reasonable message. There I was, thinking about how to not make a jerk of myself and start a conversation that wouldn’t stop after one or three responses.
Fortunately, we rather easily struck up a conversation. Our daily talks kept going and neither of us stopped replying. We shared something special that neither of us could explain, since we’d never experienced it before. It took me a while to admit that Jamie was the one I was looking for – that she caught my attention during our stay in Sweden. This confession led to many sleepless nights. Walking to one another continuously, knowing that there was more between us, than we both dared to say. Then came the first attempt of defying the distance. We had a little countdown going, on Facebook and on a poster, where we crossed out each day we had to wait to finally meet each other in Chicago, close to where Jamie’s family lives.
We both were so nervous. She waited at the airport for me to arrive while I went through U.S. customs. We longed for this very moment for the last five months. We were so happy to spend Christmas holidays and New Year’s together. Living with Jamie’s brother, his wife and kids, we did various fun activities and I felt like a family member from the first day on. We went to Chicago a couple times, visited a museum, a zoo, went to the movies, out for dinner (where we found our restaurant – Rainforest Café) – just like any other couple; but as we were enjoying ourselves, we both knew that I’d have to return to Austria soon.
After that trip, we both knew that we wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of our lives together. What we didn’t know yet, was how difficult it all would turn out to be.
After four months of struggling with the long distance, Jamie booked her flight to Vienna, Austria. We were happy to finally have her meet my family. My family and close friends loved her the instant they met her and didn’t want her to think having to return to the U.S. again. However, we both knew that keeping her here wouldn’t have worked out, and so we made the best out of her stay. We went sightseeing, spent a lot of time with the family and friends, and also went to Budapest one time (where I had a football game). It was great to have her back, to be able to fall asleep and wake up together, kiss and hold each other whenever we wanted – and just act like any other couple, forgetting all the sorrows and struggling we had to go through the last couple months. Of course, this trip ended with a heartbreaking goodbye, without knowing when we’d see each other again. This time, though, it was even worse because we became so accustomed to be with each other that we couldn’t think of leaving the other one behind.
In the same year, in August, I was able to afford another plane ticket to the U.S. This time, I met Jamie’s mother for the first time. Since I stayed for a month, I was able to meet even more of Jamie’s family than before. Everything felt so familiar. We went to a football game, Six Flags – Great America, to Wisconsin, to the movies, again, to our favorite place – the Rainforest Café, Lake Michigan, and did all those fun activities normal couples would do. Staying a month gave us a little more time, but also made the upcoming separation worse. We became so accustomed to being with each other that the thought of separating once more was unbearable. We loved being with each other, sharing experiences, falling asleep with each other (there’s nothing better than that) and being there for each other. We always knew that one day, we’d get married; but this trip, we promised ourselves that once we can afford it (Jamie had no serious job and I was about to start college), we’d take this step. We didn’t know there were laws that would stand in the way.
Leaving Jamie and her family after a month hurt tremendously, also because we both knew that the time we could spend online would be reduced yet again. With college being right around the corner, and Jamie desperately searching for a job and returning to working jobs that were right at those times we both would’ve been able to talk to each other, there was nothing we would look forward to.
As it became unbearable for us to go on like this, I decided to take the rest of my saved money, to buy Jamie a ticket to Vienna (I couldn’t fly myself, since I had to go to college), and made her come here. It was the first time she accepted such an offer, and I was happy she did. We spent two wonderful weeks in Austria together, that gave us new motivation and ambition to fight for our final forever. We enjoyed our time together, even though we knew that we’d soon be separated once more. We tried not to think about it, but the thoughts were present. We kept ourselves busy, went to college, attended family festivities. Also, Jamie got to know my newborn god-daughter. I loved being with Jamie and the family. I loved to have her as a part of my life in Austria and would have loved the thought of keeping her here. Even though it was only two weeks, it strengthened our relationship and made us continue to walk our path.
Probably the most important thing that happened during that stay is the promise we gave each other. Since we weren’t able to marry at this time, we bought rings, giving each other the promise to get married whenever it’d be possible for us to do so.
In the following three months there was nothing on our minds other than the thought of being with each other again. As often before, there was hardly time to talk to each other due to different things that would come up, preventing us from talking to each other. Jamie was working a job that was usually at the times we would have been online – and until then, we hadn’t found a way to call each other without the result of paying a fortune. Usually, at the times she worked, I went to college. The time difference seven-hour time difference led to weeks of loneliness and the craving for the voice and presence of my other half.
Luckily, I had enough money saved to buy a plane ticket that would bring me to America. I could hardly wait to see my love and her family again, since the last three months were stressful and left both of us desperate and lonely.
This time I stayed for one and a half months. It was the longest we ever were together. I loved every second that we were able to share. Also, this trip was the first time we got to spend my birthday together. It is great to spend holidays and special personal days, like birthdays with one another. In the last two years, we weren’t able to celebrate any special days together – other than New Year’s in the year we met. We both became so used to the situation of being together, that the day I had to leave was worse than ever before. Of course, every time we had to separate, we broke down and cried, not wanting to let go of the other and not knowing how to cope with the situation, but this time was different.
Since day one, we always had in mind to spend the rest of our lives together. We never really talked about where we’d actually live, but with Jamie having landed a job, and me, being in the position and age to start a ‘new life’, some other place, we agreed on me moving to the U.S.
I started my research and found out, that as a gay bi-national couple, we aren’t granted the same rights that straight couples are. It caught me off guard that it might be the case that we’d have to wait a long time to be able to get the basic human rights that straight couples do have. We were suddenly gripped with the fear that if we married I might lose my right to enter the U.S., since Jamie’s home state of Indiana does not permit or recognize marriage for same-sex couples. Fortunately, we later learned during one of The DOMA Project’s recent conference calls that this fear was unfounded. Once DOMA is off the books, immigration law will recognize any marriage so long as it is legally valid in the state or country where it was entered.
I have to admit that we didn’t think it was going to be so difficult for me to move to the U.S. We didn’t know about DOMA, and we didn’t know about all the various visas that permit temporary (but not permanent) stays. There is no way for me to obtain a green card or work permit given our circumstances. Even though I went to a technology school in Austria, where I received an above average high school education, I probably wouldn’t be able to find someone who would offer me a job and would also be willing to sponsor me for a visa.
It seems like Jamie and I are always hitting dead ends and come back to the same spot where we started. If DOMA were repealed or invalidated, we’d be able to marry. We wouldn’t have to worry about when we’d see each other again. We could simply move together, start our forever, living through the good and bad times. With the stability that is obtained through federal recognition of marriage, we would be able to dream our dreams and eventually grow our own family. It would give us the rights we deserve, because we are not different. What people need to understand is that we, as a gay couple, are no threat to the community. We enjoy the same sorts of things that heterosexual couples enjoy, from Six Flags to Football to the Rainforest Café. Just because of our sexual orientation, we should not be forced to subsist with a second-class marriage in the U.S. or anywhere else for that matter.
It is time to change things, to not separate families anymore. Inspired by the many brave DOMA Project participants, we refuse to live our lives in limbo as the Supreme Court determines DOMA’s fate and our future. By sharing our story, we are helping to build awareness and support for a swift and unambiguous end of DOMA. We’re also helping to draw attention to much needed interim remedies like a green card abeyance policy. Such and abeyance policy would allow Jamie to petition for a green card for me, with the final outcome pending until a final ruling by the Supreme Court. This would allow me to remain with Jamie without fear of separation starting now. Such a policy has precedent and would be quite easy to implement. There is no excuse for delay. Jamie and I belong together. We hope we can count on you to share our story (or even share your own) and take action to bring our message to an ever-broader audience.