Anderson and Serhat: Engaged to be Married, Fighting DOMA to Build a Life Together in Los Angeles
Our First Date
Anderson: Two years ago, I was about to meet the love of my life. At the time, I had been living in Los Angeles for nearly 2 years. All the same, I still hadn’t found that special someone. That all changed when I met Serhat. We first met online. We had a great initial exchange and ultimately decided to meet before Serhat departed Los Angeles in two day’s time.
We arranged to meet on July 11, 2011 in Los Angeles. I met him in person that afternoon and the first thing I asked him after introducing ourselves was if he was from a noble family. I also remember thinking he looked like a boxer. I later learned that he practices martial arts and has the surname Bourbon, so I wasn’t far off! The way he carried himself showed a sense of security and confidence that was extremely attractive. Having dated others for nearly 15 years by that point, I’d learned a lot about the kind of person I wanted to date. Serhat matched that person perfectly. He was literally the man I’d dreamt about–incredibly intelligent, confident and spiritual. I knew it within moments of meeting him.
Serhat: I, too, knew that Anderson was special from the moment we met. When I first saw him, the only thing I was thinking was, “I would draw his face if they asked me to picture the man of my dreams”. I knew our first meeting wouldn’t be our last!
Anderson: After that, I had to see Serhat again. The very next day, I invited him for a lunch date at the 1930’s-themed poolside restaurant at Sunset Towers. For me, the positive energy I experienced on the first day only continued to grow. Serhat later told me that he fell in love with me that day. Even now, we consider the first day we met, July 11th, 2011 to be the beginning of our relationship. Though we did not explicitly commit to one another, we both knew we wouldn’t be seeing anyone else.
Serhat: On that day, I remember how Anderson’s looks, peaceful voice, culture, intelligence, and natural charisma pulled me into his presence. Meeting each other the day before was definitely the best “coincidence” of our lives.
Anderson: As wonderful as our first date was, Serhat had to leave the next day. Seeing him off at the airport was difficult, but fortunately we were able to stay in touch by online chat. It turns out that we would spend much of our time in the following one and a half years exchanging messages on our phones.
Serhat: As a Turkish national, my primary residence is Istanbul. However, my work as an integrated medicine practitioner allows me to travel the world while attending to my other family business projects. Soon after our first meeting, Anderson and I searched for ways we could start a life together in LA. Though my visa permits me to enter the U.S. an unlimited number of times, my work initially prohibited me from staying with Anderson for very long. I kept traveling around the world and he tried to join me as much as possible. When we weren’t able to be together, it felt like emotional torture.
Anderson: Serhat’s longest absence of over a month was especially difficult for us. It got to a point where we decided we would never be apart for more than three weeks at a time. Because DOMA prevents Serhat from establishing himself in LA, his income depends on his continued travels. Fortunately, we were both able to rearrange our work schedules so that he stays in LA for a month and a half and then leaves for a month. After a maximum of three weeks apart, I then leave LA to meet him on the road. As fabulous as all this travel sounds, it is disruptive to creating a life together in LA. It’s definitely not sustainable in the long term.
Serhat: As painful as our frequent goodbyes may be, the worst part is feeling waves of anxiety every time I enter the U.S. Due to my multiple entries to the U.S., it becomes harder and harder for me to explain to Customs and Border Patrol officers why I frequently return to the U.S. If I mention Anderson, it’s extremely likely I would be denied entry–which is our worst nightmare. So, we try to arrange our travels to avoid frequent entries, but sometimes that’s not possible.
Serhat: I spent Christmas in 2011 with Anderson and his family in Atlanta, where his sister now lives. I got a sense of how he grew up and I loved the family dynamics. I think his family liked me too. I feel like they treat me as part of the family.
Anderson: Ever since the day we met, Serhat and I knew we wanted to be in each other’s lives. Though we share many interests including travel, fitness, and our spirituality, sharing our past and our respective families was an important milestone in our relationship. In July 2012, I met Serhat’s parents. Though I don’t speak any of the languages they speak, I was able to get a good sense of his family dynamic. His father is really warm. I loved spending time with them. I really felt welcomed into the family from day one.
Anderson: It turns out that Serhat and I were with my family when we first talked about getting married. It was always on the backburner. It was only a matter of time before we started to make plans. The two of us exchanged rings in March of 2012.
As for our future wedding, we want a very close group of friends and family in a place where we all feel like we’re on vacation so everyone can leave behind their worries and celebrate. I know Serhat has plans about passing on a noble title to me. Though the idea of titles is so far from my realm of experience, I know that it’s really important to him, so I respect that.
Our American Dream
Serhat: Ever since my first visit to LA many years ago, I knew that I wanted to live there at some point in my life. Since I met Anderson, the two of us have dreamed of sharing our lives together. We have been wearing our engagement rings on our fingers for over a year now. We have even talked about how many children we will raise together! I see LA as an ideal place to raise a family together with Anderson. Unfortunately, because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Anderson is unable to sponsor me for residency on the basis of our committed relationship. Moreover, our forced travel schedule is simply too intense for expanding our family. DOMA forces us to put our dream on hold.
Anderson: Initially, neither of us knew about DOMA, though I knew that the federal government doesn’t recognize gay and lesbian relationships. Once Serhat and I started talking about getting married, moving, and establishing his business in the U.S., we realized that DOMA was the only thing standing in our way. Like a large majority of Americans, my dad feels that DOMA’s continued existence is silly. Accompanying us on our most recent trip to Southeast Asia, he shared with us just how excited he was that DOMA could be overturned soon. On the eve of a Supreme Court ruling, Serhat and I hope that our story will continue to spread awareness of just how DOMA threatens the hopes and dreams of thousands of binational couples like us.
Serhat: As a foreigner, the idea of the “American Dream” is especially meaningful to me. We find that the needless suffering caused by DOMA is contradictory to American values. I have always viewed the U.S. as one of the greatest countries in the world–a place where hard-working, successful, and lawful people can make their dreams come true no matter what their origin. Anderson and I both believe that nothing should hold any person back from creating a loving family and becoming fathers/mothers to the children they would raise with unconditional love.
Anderson: In the end, we are one of the fortunate couples who are able to find a way to see one another on a regular basis. Many of my fellow Americans in gay or lesbian binational relationships are forced to endure months or even years of separation. Others yet are forced to close their businesses and take their talents abroad in order to be together with their loved one–even though the U.S. may be the only home they know. But even in our case, we are forced to jump through hoops and spend large sums of money to be together, a situation that is forced on us by the U.S. government.
Making Our Voices Heard
Anderson: After Democratic senators caved to the inhumane demands of Republicans to exclude binational couples like us from Comprehensive Immigration Reform, our future rests in the hands of the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. Serhat and I join with thousands of binational couples and our supporters to call on the Supreme Court to eliminate this terrible law. Only when DOMA is gone and freedom is restored will Serhat and I will finally be able to start living our American Dream. We encourage you to join The DOMA Project today by sharing our story, sharing your own story, or contributing financially to this campaign. We firmly believe there has never been a better time to support The DOMA Project. The time to act is now.