Enduring 5 Years of Separation under DOMA, Craig and Renato Fight Back By Filing for a Fiancé Visa
I met Renato on January 16, 2008 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We had an instant mutual attraction and connection, and I knew within minutes that he was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. We spent the next amazing two weeks getting to know each other and enjoying the beauty of Rio. We also started to make plans for our life together. Getting on the flight back to the U.S. after those two weeks together was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Five years later, we are still having those gut-wrenching “airport moments” when we have to part.
After our first meeting, we spent the next few months chatting online every day, exchanging email messages, texting, etc. After a short time, we began to make plans for Renato to come to the United States for a short visit to see where I lived and to meet my friends and family. At the time I did not realize how difficult this would be. We thought he would be able to come for just a couple weeks with his passport. I have friends from all over the world who come to the U.S. whenever they desire. Unfortunately, this is not the case for Renato. As a Brazilian, he needed to apply for a visa, even to come for just a short visit. We later learned that for many people in South America, obtaining a visitor visa is next to impossible.
Since Renato is a fashion accessory designer, and he was interested in furthering his education, we started to research the possibility of him coming to study at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. It’s one of the best fashion design schools in the U.S. This way, he could come and stay on a student visa for up to 4 years, and he would have more advanced skills and experience when he returned to Brazil to continue his career. After the long and grueling visa application process, his application was denied on October 26, 2008 at the U.S. Embassy in Recife, Brazil. We were devastated, but not defeated. We kept hoping there would be a way for us to be together in the United States at least for a temporary period while he visited or went to school; that did not work out, but we did not lose hope. Our online chats continued every day.
I traveled to Brazil again in January 2009. We met again in Rio de Janeiro, and this time we traveled to Buzios, a small beach resort town about 2 hours from Rio. We spent 2 amazing weeks on the beach, dining out, visiting local attractions, and living our lives together as a couple. It was wonderful! Sadly, during the whole visit my dreaded flight back to the United States was hanging in the back of our minds. I knew I would have to leave the man I loved. I couldn’t even sleep the night before my departure.
In November 2009, I traveled to Brazil again. This time we visited Renato’s hometown, Fortaleza, Ceara, in the Northeast part of Brazil. This was an exciting trip, as I met Renato’ s friends and family for the first time and saw the place where he grew up. It was fantastic! We enjoyed the beaches, one of my favorite things in Brazil, and went to his best friend’s birthday party. I also really enjoyed meeting Renato’s parents and sisters. At the end of this trip, we decided that perhaps Renato should make a second attempt to apply for a student visa to study in the U.S. Being apart was becoming unbearable as our love for one another continued to grow. Plus, Renato still dreamed of getting that degree in the U.S. Ultimately, Renato’s second student visa application was unsuccessful.
Because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal government does not recognize the committed relationships between gay and lesbian binational couples for immigration or any other purpose. Thus, from that time on, we have had to live apart, making costly trips between continents just to be with one another. In the following year (2010) I traveled to Brazil two times; we met once in Rio de Janeiro, and I traveled again to Renato’s hometown Fortaleza. We also took a side trip to Canoa Quebrada, a small beach resort about 2 hours from Fortaleza.
In May 2011, we decided to meet in the Netherlands, as Renato and I both have friends who live in Amsterdam. Renato even lived in Amsterdam for a while before we met. This was our first trip together outside of Brazil. I was very excited that one of my best friends would finally get to meet Renato. But I couldn’t help but think how horrible it was that I had to go to a third country (and continent) just to introduce the man I loved to my friend.
After another November trip to Fortaleza, Renato and I decided to meet again in Amsterdam in May 2012, for the birthday party of my best friend and his partner. (Their birthdays are just a week apart.) Renato and I rented our own apartment in the center of Amsterdam, and we hosted our friends for dinner parties. Renato even cooked homemade Brazilian food that everyone enjoyed. His chicken stroganoff is delicioso! Our friends Dennis and Jeroen decided they would meet us in Rio de Janeiro in November.
So, in November 2012, I traveled to Rio de Janeiro for a holiday with Renato and our friends from Amsterdam. We rented a villa by the beach in Ipanema. We celebrated my 45th birthday with a night out at one of Rio’s biggest clubs. We spent our days at the beach and showing our friends the “Cidade Maravilhosa” (Marvelous City) and attractions like the Cristo statue, Sugarloaf Mountain, and much more. We also went to the Madonna concert at the arena where Rio will host the Olympics in 2016.
Renato and I have had an amazing five years together as a couple. Despite the fact that it required so much international travel for us to be together, our love for each other has only grown stronger. We are now prepared to take the next step together and make a lifelong commitment. I am applying for a fiancé visa so that Renato can come to the United States and marry me. Our plan would be to have a wedding in New York within the first
90 days after his arrival, as required by law. He would then file an application for a green card on the basis of our marriage.
By filing our fiancé visa petition earlier this month and sharing our story now, we are taking our future into our own hands and holding our government accountable. We will not simply wait for the Supreme Court to rule on DOMA. After all, little good has ever come out of sitting around and waiting. We are proud to be acting today in the pursuit of full equality. We hope you’ll join us and The DOMA Project by sharing our stories with family, friends, the media, and elected officials. There has never been a better time to show the world the harms that are caused by DOMA. We cannot allow this injustice to continue one day longer.