Relocation from New Zealand to North Carolina, a Student Visa, Crushing Tuition Fees: Ron and Arthur Fight DOMA
I would not be writing this story if not for DOMA. But it’s not what you think.
Because of DOMA, my dear friend Leif was forced to move to New Zealand to live with his partner, Morris. I traveled to visit them in February 2011, and during that trip… well let’s just say I joined the binational couple community myself. Leif moved to New Zealand in part because there was no immigration path for Morris to come to the United States. Like all binational, same-sex couples, Leif and Morris simply wanted to be together and were fortunately able to make that happen in New Zealand, a country that includes same-sex couples in its immigration policies.
While stomping around the grounds of Auckland’s annual “Big Gay Out” celebration with these dear friends, I met a Kiwi named Arthur who was in Auckland on vacation from his home on the country’s South Island. Our attraction to each other was nearly instantaneous and what I thought was a “holiday romance” quickly unfolded into something more. I returned home to South Carolina a week later and learned to navigate Skype. Through this technology, we discovered there was a lot more to our connection. After countless hours on Skype and Facebook, we decided that we had to have more “real time” together, so we planned for Arthur to visit the U.S.
In June 2011, Arthur came to visit me in my home state of South Carolina, and we spent nearly three months together, the maximum time allowed under his visitor’s visa. The trips, trials and tribulations during our time together further cemented our bond. I was also able to introduce Arthur to my family and friends. Somewhere in that period we fell in love and acknowledged we wanted a life together. All too soon, our 89 days together expired, and Arthur had to return to his native country.
However, we were already planning our next opportunity to reunite. As I am sure any couple apart knows, there is only so much that social networks and Skype can do to satiate the yearning and need to be with that special person you love. Thus, I traveled back to New Zealand in November 2011 to see him. I went on a second trip in February 2012. On these trips, I met more of Arthur’s friends and family, and we spent our time exploring beautiful New Zealand and reveling in every moment we had together as we were all too aware that our shared hours, minutes and seconds were limited by my return plane ticket.
For us, there has been a respite in our separation as Arthur’s life plan included a return to university to complete his degree; he decided to make that happen in the U.S. by applying for an F-1 student visa. Arthur applied and was accepted to a college in Charlotte, N.C. Soon after, I was able to relocate to Charlotte, and we have been living in the Queen City for over a year now. Arthur is well on his path to getting his degree but has very limited work options with his visa. Though challenging at times, we make ends meet and understand the extra financial burden of attending college as an international student is just another sacrifice we have to bear in order to be together at this time. We know and appreciate the limitations of our current status, but it is definitely an improvement over our previous separation. We remember waiting for that Skype call and managing the 16 hour time difference just so we could speak to each other, even if only to say “goodnight, I love you.”
As things stand, graduation will mean a return to New Zealand for Arthur. Though completely open to the idea, moving to New Zealand is not an option for me currently as I have an established career as a federal employee. The defeat of DOMA would be a huge step on our path to remain together as it would afford us the opportunity to stay a couple and contribute fully to our community here in the U.S. In less than a month, DOMA’s fate and our future will be decided. Let’s make sure that the justices do not forget about binational couples like us. We urge the justices on the Supreme Court to remember that our future is in their hands. Please join us in sharing our story and raising awareness of just why DOMA needs to go.