Hoping to Retire Together in the U.S., Ginnie and Astrid Refuse to Accept their Continued DOMA Exile
Astrid (right) and I met on August 31, 2007, via the UK-based Shutterchance photoblog when she first commented on my day’s image. I’m American. She’s Dutch. And we’re both photographers.
At the time, I was traveling back and forth to the Netherlands every month because of my ex-partner’s work and had the chance to meet Astrid on November 30 of the same year, 3 months after meeting online. We decided to get together to photo hunt. Little did we know that we would almost immediately fall in love. The picture above shows that very first day we met in real life: you can already see the love.
Many visits, e-mails, and Skype-chats later, we both knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. So, on December 5, 2009, I left my 2 grown children and my 9-year-old grandson in the U.S. and reunited with Astrid in the Netherlands.
That day was especially meaningful for us as it coincided with Sinterklaasdag (Santa Claus Day). Sinterklaasdag is celebrated in the Netherlands on December 5 every year. Traditionally, it was the Dutch day for the giving and receiving of presents, especially big for the children. This left December 25 for the religious aspect of Christmas, which I quite like. Because it was Sinterklaasdag that I arrived to live with Astrid, it will always be our day of symbolically receiving the gift of each other. Ever since, I’ve often reminded myself, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!” (My given name is Virgina.)
Two months later after our first Sinterklaasdag, we were legally married at our town’s city hall, on February 5, 2010. I think Cora, our city hall officiator, was as happy as we were. Three years later and counting, we’ve never once second-guessed our decision. Astrid had been married 27 years and has a grown son. I had been married 21 years, with 2 grown children and a grandson who is now 13 years old.
I am now 68-years-old in good health, living on social security under $1,000/month. Astrid is 9 years younger and still needs to work for another year before she reaches retirement. Once she retires, the big question will be if/how we can live on a limited income, especially when my dollar is worth less than her euro. Every time I transfer money over, I lose.
The question in the back of our minds is whether one day I will need assisted living; my mom died of Alzheimer’s so I’m at risk as well. My long-term care premium is paid and will allow me good assistance in the U.S., if needed. My dollar will go further there, as will Astrid’s euro, if money is ever an issue for us. It’s just important to us to know we have that option.
It’s not that we live in the future, fearing the worst (that I’ll get Alzheimer’s, for instance), but that we want to plan ahead and make the right choices. To help make those choices, we need to know whether we will have the option to move to to the U.S. as a married couple if that ever becomes a necessity.
Astrid lived in America for a year when she was 20 and already loves my country, just as I love hers. We’re fortunate to live in a country with full marriage equality. However, marriage equality in the Netherlands is not enough for us. Having spent the majority of my life as a contributing member of American society and law-abiding tax-payer, I may need to depend on my country one day for my own well being. I hope that, should the time come, my country would not deny me a chance to be safe and happy with my loved ones. It’s this reality that makes us aware that even couples with an established life in exile need for DOMA to fall. As a U.S. citizen, I am not content to leave my country off the list of my future options. No one should have to settle for that. Please share our story with your friends and family. Together with other couples participating in The DOMA Project, we will ensure that the Supreme Court knows that behind DOMA lie stories like ours: stories of people who simply love and want the best for one another.