Faced with Exile to Canada Unless DOMA is Defeated, Benjamin and Phillip Fight to Live Together in New York
It’s hard to believe that it’s been over three years since my husband and I met and fell in love.
I’m an American citizen and my husband, Phillip, is Canadian. We met while Phillip was visiting our mutual friend, Lisa, who was a classmate of mine in graduate school. I vividly remember the moment that I shook his hand and introduced myself. He was unlike anyone I had met before; honest, sincere, and caring, not to mention that infectious smile!
At the time, we were both in school; I was in Boston, and Phillip was in Montreal. I had the opportunity to visit Montreal with Lisa for her birthday week a few months after Phillip and I had met. During that week, we spent most days together getting to know each other, and finally, he asked me out for a proper date. We spent that day laying on Mont-Royal, enjoying the scenery and talking about our lives. He showed me Montreal and made me fall in love with him even more during dinner one evening overlooking the city under a huge orange moon. I remember feeling so lucky and happy; the future and the struggle we might face as a bi-national couple were irrelevant. We were falling in love. We discussed the distance and decided it would be best for us not to begin anything serious. That lasted for all of two weeks before I again found myself in Montreal.
We continued traveling back and forth between Montreal and Boston over the following year. We even traveled together to Europe, took a cruise to the Bahamas, and spent as much time together as we could. After I graduated we began making decisions about our next step. After much discussion, and because DOMA prevented me from sponsoring him for residency in the United States, we decided it would be best for me to move to Canada and begin the immigration process there.
I moved in the summer of 2011 and began the application process for a Permanent Residence visa with the Quebec government. During the process, I resided in Montreal and commuted back to Boston for my freelance work. This worked well for us for about a year. At the end of that year, my application was (and currently still is) pending. It was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a professional presence in Boston while living in another country. But without a visa, I couldn’t work in Canada.
At this point we began to consider other options. We got married in November of 2012. In January, we traveled to New York and held a small ceremony with our close friends. We felt it was important to both of us to get married in the United States, not only to support a state that had taken the step of equality, but to make a statement in a country that is slowly coming around to accepting our love and commitment.
It was a snowy day, a familiar scene for us back in Montreal, but a beautiful ceremony that neither of us will ever forget.
On our train trip back to Montreal, we had plenty of time to discuss our future and our goals. By the end of the trip, we had decided that since I couldn’t work in Montreal and it didn’t seem as though that would change any time soon, I would move to New York to pursue my career. Phillip would accompany me for the summer, then return to Canada to finish his degree. The move to New York put into sharp focus the barriers and discrimination that DOMA places in front of us.
We were stopped and heavily questioned at the border. The officials suspected that Phillip was moving to New York, and had no intention of leaving. After an hour of feeling like we had done something wrong simply by wanting to spend our summer together as a married couple, Phillip was issued a three-week visa. For several hours after the ordeal we were both silent. We both felt unfairly called out, and the brief prospect of not being able to spend the summer together was unbearable.
Thankfully, with the help of an experienced attorney, we were eventually able to obtain an extension on Phillip’s visitor status that will last until the end of this summer. However, we’ve started to establish ourselves here in New York. We have friends and family here. Ultimately, we’ve built a temporary life together. It’s a life we want to continue building.
Unfortunately, that isn’t an option for us. Since DOMA still prevents me as an American citizen from sponsoring my husband, we will move forward with our plan for me to immigrate to Canada, where my application is still spending with the Quebec government. This is sad for both of us. We both love Canada very much, and under the law there, our marriage is fully recognized as equal. However, I also love my country, and the opportunities that exist here for both of us far exceed what we could hope to accomplish in Canada. We both hope that the Supreme Court will do the right thing and strike down the discriminatory law that prevents us from building a life together in the United States. With the incredible support of our family and friends, as well as countless people we have never met, I know this is possible. The U.S. isn’t perfect, but Americans have always fought for progress against sometimes overwhelming odds. In the end, compassion, understanding, and love will always win out against bigotry and hatred. That, along with everyone’s courageous sharing of stories of struggle and separation gives us hope that the future is brighter, and that things really will get better. We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this movement for social justice and equality with The DOMA Project.