Nine Years Later, David and José Are Still Planning For A Future Without DOMA

TIMES SQUARE625

I was raised in small town Paradise, California.  José was raised in Talca, in central Chile’s wine country.  In 2004, we were both living in Miami. I had relocated to Miami from my work from New York,  when both our paths crossed.   A mutual friend,  invited José and I to meet at his home for dinner.  He knew we would become fast friends, but little did he know how fast.  When we first met,  I knew José was the “one.”  As funny as it sounds, for us it was “love at first sight.”   Jose later told me it was my smile that won him over.  We talked for hours at our first meeting, and immediately made plans to meet again.   Nine years later we are still talking and planning and spending our lives together.

Wedding Facing

That first day, into two, and then two to three.  Before we knew it we were spending all our time together. From that point on, José and I were pretty much inseparable.   We have so much in common and complement each other completely.  In the beginning we were looking for every opportunity to spend time together.  Since we were both in South Beach, Miami, we spent a lot of time just walking.  We must have walked miles and miles just talking and getting to know each other.

Being from the west coast, we had a lot in common: Chile and California are a lot alike.  We’re always comparing our origins and lives and taking about our families.  José told me a lot about how his mother were always very close.   He told me about his life and how his mother, was a woman of strong convictions, and a secret community organizer for democracy in Chile.  He told me about,  how his father, disappeared under that regime for over 6 months and that he never spoke of it.  José’s first experience in democracy was to vote in their referendum to overthrow their dictator.   José loved his mother dearly.  She was very happy that José and I had met, and was very supportive of us being together; she called me “son” when they talked.

Our lives have had its ups and downs, It has not always been easy for José, living in the US.  But the one thing we know: together we were strong and could accomplish anything.  Any problem that occurred that first year just seamed to disappear.   Together we were the two halves that were meant to be together to be whole.  We created a home together, moved to Coconut Grove, and adopted our first Dog, Lola, from the Humane Society,

One of the most important moments of our relationship was the morning when Jose and I discussed about getting married. “David, Are you serious about our relationship?” My answer was that I loved him and I knew it from the first moment I  first saw him and knew we would be together.  That was the moment we decided to become engaged.  We read that same sex marriage was now legal in Massachusetts, and we would be ready for it.  On New Year’s Eve  2005 on the steps of the Basilica in Coconut Grove,  Miami, Jose and I became engaged.  We both made a commitment to each other that night that we would marry when the time was right.

Our lives soon took us to New York, where I had lived previously.  After almost a three year engagement, in July 2008, I read that Massachusetts would permit out of state same-sex couples to be married in that state, and that former New York Governor David Patterson had decreed that New York would honor those marriages.  I was so excited when I read the news, that in my typical  not-so “romantic” approaches I “texted” to Jose,  “Will you marry me?”  He responded, “Yes.”   That was it.  Yes, I proposed by text message.

CHURCHThe next few months were all planning: the date, location, days off work, flowers, etc.  The one thing I knew was that I had to be married in the Church, since growing up I had always been a devout Episcopalian.  I found a priest that would do it and a Justice of the Peace for good measure to solemnize the occasion.  “I don’t want anything to go wrong,” I remembered telling José.  So on October, 3, 2008 we were married at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Boston.  A Priest, A Justice of the Peace, the acolyte for the Mass, the photographer and José and me.  The most private, yet most sincere and blessed event in our lives.   José reminded me how nervous I was that day, and I remembered seeing how scared he was; how serious he was to the commitment we had made to one another. That day we became David & José Jones-Munoz!  Our families were waiting to hear about our marriage, José’s mother and family in Chile and mine from California.  The big surprise was the two Lei’s sent from my aunt, from Sacramento, I was surprised by that choice, since Lei’s were not from our familiar traditions.  She told me that she had read that the lei was the symbol of love and she wanted us to be surrounded by love on that day.  We realized how perfect that was.

The  overarching impression we got that day was the loving acceptance that those who lived in Boston presented to us. From the clerk at the registrars office who took extra time with us, while she made the line of twenty wait, to get all the details correct, to the local café where we stopped for a quick champagne to celebrate for pictures, and telephone our families, where the entire restaurant passed a card around congratulating us on our great day.  In the Boston Commons as we passed those with business suits, strangers said to us, “Thank you for getting married in our city.”  To us that was the sign that our marriage was like any other marriage. It was real in all respects. From our priest and the Church ceremony, to the Justice of the Peace the impact was exactly what we expected.

Upon returning to New York, there were many issues DOMA that we confronted us in our day to day lives: we planned to buy a house, but we were limited by the opportunities and the programs that we could have applied from HUD.  José’s status would not permit us to do so. Even the State-run First Time Buyers programs  accepted our marriage but due to DOMA, we could not use his income as qualifying income. In another instance, José’s income disqualified us on a New York City local option. It came back to us over and over, that since DOMA was the law they could not help us with any process to buy a home.

Wedding Smiling

2010, was a hard year for José.  His mother had been suffering  from Alzheimer’s.  Jose had been making attempts to make her life more comfortable, but eventually she passed away in her sleep  That was a sad day for us both.  The pain he felt and the pain I felt knowing that he could not go home to see his family during this time of great sadness was indescribable. All I could do was to support him during those dark days, and let him know that his family was here for him. I never got to meet the woman that was such a great inspiration to José and made him the strong person that he is today, the person I love so much.  I would have loved to meet her because of her strong influence in her community and her family.

When New York passed Marriage Equality it was a great day for New York. We wanted to be a part of it, so, on the first day, July 24, 2011, we waited in line for 4 hours, and in front of a New York Court Judge Marcy Kahn, at City Hall we were married again. Our witnesses were a couple that had been together for over 25 years,  and inspiration for our relationship.   José was so emotional that the Judge had to ask if he was ok?  He was, He always cries when he’s truly happy.  (There was a lot of crying that day!) In New York we had all the experiences we didn’t the first time.  The crowds, friends and the reception put together for all the newly  married couples at the LGBT center in NYC by City Council President, Christine Quinn.  People stopping us on the streets to congratulate us from the sanitation man riding on a truck, to a waiter in a store, to a small kid with his parents, and tourists in Times Square all applauding and wishing us a happy marriage.

DOMA has placed so many obstacles in front of us that opposite sex couples don’t face.  The lack of immigration for José, his ability to work freely and have  economic security.  Our desire to buy a house.,  The Ability to travel home and mourn with his family when his mother passed away,  The security that if something would happen to one of us  how would the other survive?  So many rights and privileges that the Federal government provides to Opposite Sex Couples.  As   Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg said federal marriage benefits “touch every aspect of life. Your partner is sick. social security. I mean, it’s pervasive. It’s not as though, well, there’s this little federal sphere and it’s only a tax question. It’s — it’s — as Justice Kennedy said, 1,100 statutes, and it affects every area of life.”

After DOMA, our lives would totally change almost completely.

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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.