Joel & Gabriel: Together for Ten Years in Exile in Mexico Because of DOMA

I moved to Mexico City after college and fell in love with the country and its people. After one year, I fell in love again, this time with Gabriel.  We met on the job and I will never forget thinking what warm brown eyes and a beautiful smile he had.  We had very few interactions and I soon quit my job and was off on a month-long trip to India.  After coming back to Mexico City, I was walking to my old office and ran into him.  It was difficult to imagine running into someone in one of the biggest cities in the world but sure enough, there he was.  We started chatting and he invited me to a party with some of the people from where I used to work.  Since it involved Salsa dancing, I agreed.

The following day we showed up in front of the office at the designated time only to find one other person waiting.  It turns out the party had been cancelled but no one had told us.  The three of us decided to go see a movie but on the walk to the theater, it became clear that there was a third wheel.  Gabriel and I found a moment alone and he invited me to a party the next day at a friend’s house to celebrate Mexican Independence Day.

We began seeing each other more and more frequently after that night and 6 months later we were living together.  Since then we have only been separated when he is on tour dancing or when I go back to the US to visit my family.  I have always wanted Gabriel to see where I grew up and meet my family but unfortunately, Gabriel does not have an American visa and therefore has not met anyone from my family as my mother has a medical condition that does not allow her to travel long distances.  For the past ten years we have shared a life together, travelled abroad many times, visited countless countries and even lived in Europe for two years.  I find it unacceptable that the one country that is off limits, is my own.

I am lucky to be afforded the option to live and work in Mexico, a country I love and have adopted as my own.  However, that does not take away the sting of knowing that my partner has not seen where I grew up or met my family.  This situation was made even more painful when our first nephew was born in May 2012.  I wanted desperately for Gabriel to meet him so I encouraged him to apply again for a tourist visa. The interview and the process were humiliating and in the end he was denied.

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Although I consider Mexico my adopted country and have lived here for over a decade, I am still one year away from getting permanent residency in Mexico.  When I go to renew my work visa every year I cannot help but think about what the consequences would be if I were denied.  We would have to search for a third country that would extend work visas for both of us.  It is a frightening prospect and one that I should not have to face as an American citizen.  The stability of securing a “green card” for Gabriel would allow us to just live our lives like so many people do and take for granted.

Recently, I have begun taking online courses through an American university to get a second Bachelor’s degree in Speech Pathology in order to make a career change from teaching English to Speech Therapy.  My background would serve me well as a bilingual Speech Pathologist and I have been told to expect scholarship offers from schools in the U.S. to study my Master’s degree due to my language ability and experience abroad.  Getting a scholarship for graduate would mean the world to me.  However, I will not be able to take advantage of any scholarship in the U.S. unless I leave Gabriel behind – a sacrifice I am not willing to make.

In Tikal, Guatemala

If DOMA were repealed, I could sponsor Gabriel for a green card giving us a stability that we have never known while opening many opportunities up for us that had been previously closed.  We would finally be able to build our future together, and Gabriel would not be walled off from my family. It is time for this discrimination to end and we are sharing our story to add our voices to the others who have joined The DOMA Project to help achieve that goal.


  • Luis Fraga

    Thanks Joel and Gabriel for sharing your story. Hopefully soon Joel will be able to sponsor Gabriel to get a green card and travel to U.S.A. to meet Joel’s Family.
    I’m from Mexico City or Federal District and my husband Brent is from Phoenix, Arizona.
    We live in Mesa, Arizona and we share with you the Frustration and Anger of not being able to have the same rights and opportunities that heterosexual couples have. We thank The DOMA Project for all the Support and all the Updates through their Website, Facebook and the Workshops. God Bless.

    May 26, 2013
  • Becca Marlow

    Dear Joel and Gabriel: My heart aches for both of you. I am embarrassed that such social injustices are still occurring today, especially in the USA. The underlying beliefs that suppress DOMA are archaic and are rooted only in fear and bigotry. Please know that you have my support and love. Your photos are beautiful… Keep on keeping on!

    May 28, 2013

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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.