Married Lesbian Binational Couple in Kentucky Celebrate Ten Years Together, Share Their Story and Fight DOMA
In June, Lujza and I will celebrate our 10-year anniversary as a couple, and our 2-year wedding anniversary. A decade together is a milestone and achievement for any couple, but because we are a binational same-sex couple, we have had to fight for every day of those 10 years.
Like many young couples, Lujza and I met while she was a college student and I was a recent graduate, working an entry level job. We met online in the summer of 2003, when Lujza, who was an international student from Budapest, Hungary, was looking for friends in her new home. Almost immediately we fell in love. I was amazed by her stories of working as a translator for social workers and ministers helping the homeless in her hometown of Budapest, Hungary. She was and is kind, empathetic, and has a fierce commitment to justice and fairness. When she emailed me one of Shakespeare’s love poems, I was smitten. We soon discovered that we could not imagine living without each other, no matter how many challenges we would face.
At this stage, we would have begun planning our wedding and applying for a fiancée visa for Lujza, but because of DOMA, both of those dreams were impossible. The door to any family-based visa was closed. We were even told that if we married, we could jeopardize her status.
Instead of a wedding, we embarked on a 10-year nightmare of debt, anxiety, and dreams deferred. In order to keep her student visa, Lujza must carry a full-time course load, and is not eligible to work anywhere off-campus. We have spent tens of thousands of dollars on tuition for Lujza because it has been the only hope we had to stay here together. As a foreign student, she can never qualify for in-state tuition or most financial aid. For years we had to beg relatives, take out loans and credit cards, panicking each semester, fearing that we wouldn’t be able to scrape the money together.
The emotional toll has been as heavy as the financial one. Lujza has given up years of productivity and livelihood to remain a student so that we could be here together. We have delayed having a family, although our dearest wish is to have a child, because of the precariousness of our situation. All of our decisions have been informed by the fact that we could at any point have to leave the U.S. if she lost her student status due to lack of funds or some official noticing that she isn’t making progress toward a degree. We have a home, friends, a community, and a church here in Lexington, Kentucky yet we have always lived with the anxiety that this could be taken away, that we could be exiled by the U.S. government.
Lujza has made an immense sacrifice for our relationship by choosing to remain in the U.S. indefinitely, because we know that the chances would be extremely slim that her student visa would be renewed if she left the country after so manyyears. Lujza has not been able to see her mother in 10 years, even when she had cancer. Even though my mother-in-law supports our relationship, I have never met her in person. In addition, we have spent hundreds of dollars on therapy and medication to deal with panic attacks on my part and depression on Lujza’s part, resulting from the fear and anxiety we have endured for a decade.
Ten years has been too long. We are so tired of the uncertainty and sacrifice that seem to have no end in sight, but we are not defeated; we have always fought to be together and we will not stop fighting now. DOMA has done this to us, no other law, no other obstacle, just DOMA. For us that means, winning our freedom to live our lives and plan our future requires defeating DOMA. We cannot afford to continue postponing our lives, for we can never get back these years. This is why we chose to travel to Connecticut to marry in 2011, mere weeks before Lujza’s beloved aunt died, so that she could see that dream fulfilled before she passed away. We have sacrificed money, tears, and wishes, but we can never replace those moments that we lose in waiting and postponing the important events of our lives. We are ready to fight for the same rights that every heterosexual American enjoys by applying for a green card based on our marriage now and fighting to have it approved.
We encourage others reading this story to contact The DOMA Project and share their story. The Supreme Court will rule on DOMA, but that is not an excuse to sit around and wait. The burden we have all borne for so many years has taught us that our love is worth fighting for. Let’s keep up that fight and educate everyone about the extreme harm caused by DOMA, and why it must be defeated once and for all.