Leaving Cambodia Behind, Ken & Wes Settle Down to Married Life in Florida, Determined to Defeat DOMA

receptionhenry2-cropped

We met in the summer of 2008 in beautiful and exotic Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I had been there since 2004 working in developing nations as a doctor for advocacy, child protection, LGBT and human rights, trauma, HIV/AIDS. I also worked in the development of mental health systems in Southeast Asia, India, and Africa. Wes was one of the top students for International Business as well as a part of the social elite in Cambodia. We met through Wes’ dean, who happened to be my best friend. She would bring Wes with her to events and meetings and even social outings as part of his role as University Ambassador. The attraction was clear; the spark ignited. After hours of phone calls going late into the night plus courting, teasing, and flirting, our feelings turned into a relationship. Years later, across oceans and hardship, we continue.

Wes quickly found his passion for advocacy and development, becoming a key member in my governmental and non-governmental organizations. Wes particularly focused on the development of protection and assistance for his own people who suffered greatly from past genocide and the current oppressive regime of the prime minister. At the same time, life was fabulous with glamorous events, dinners, royals, celebrities, parties, ceremonies, and exotic travels; but in reality it was not an easy endeavor to work with a government when it was the government that was responsible for the very problems we hoped to address. Nonetheless, our relationships and passion made the experience not just bearable but full of love and fun. Our work together was exciting, caring, compassionate, risky and frightening all at the same time. In spite of the dangers we faced in our work to bring about change, one of the biggest obstacles was having to hide our relationship from Wes’ family and from society for fear of being harmed and outcast. Though not ideal, it brought us even closer together and made our love and commitment that much stronger.

We found love, we grew, and thrived on the intrigue and challenge involved in our work. However, eventually our situation became too dangerous as our work placed us at odds with powerful leaders who did not wish to be exposed for their corruption and abuses. As the situation became unmanageable, I was forced to leave the country out of fear for my safety, leaving Wes behind in the protection of his family. We were both persecuted on many levels, but with the help of Wes’ wonderful family and hard work, a path was found for him to also escape to America six months later. It was a very long six months, but we had the happiest of reunions here in Miami – our new home.

Wes is now in school again and preparing to graduate while I continue my work as a human rights activist, an equality advocate, and as a private practice psychologist. In the meantime, the two of us are enjoying the beauty, culture, and life that is South Beach, a big change from our previous home. From the security of U.S., we were also able to pursue our dream of getting married. We married in D.C. on March 30th, 2013 with a reception here in Miami shortly thereafter.

hoda44-cropped

Despite all our success and our love, we struggle with the fact that as a binational couple we are still feeling vulnerable because the Defense of Marriage Act prohibits the federal government from recognizing our marriage and allowing me to sponsor my husband for permanent residency. As a result, we feel threatened in our freedoms and our ability to stay together. After working in nations fraught with extreme oppression brutal regimes; it is sadly ironic that we may one day be forced to leave the “Land of the Free” in order to find a place that allows us to be able to spend the rest of our lives together.

We share our story and speak out in public as much as we can to help bring change and to help our fellow binational couples who have not had the good fortune to find a way to live together. Far too many live separated from their loved one, simply because DOMA prohibits them from sponsoring their spouse/fiancé(e) for residency. If we all get involved and share our stories, DOMA can be overturned and people can be with the ones they love. As The DOMA Project mission reminds us, we must ensure that the our elected officials, the Supreme Court, and the court of public opinion are aware that there are people, lives, and love behind these laws! Thank you for reading and sharing our story.

3 comments


  • Jeff

    I am so happy to read of your love and relationship, and how your life together here in the US is well underway. I am hopeful with you that the US Supreme Court will rule appropriately this month with regards to DOMA.

    I became engaged to my fiance while on holiday in Vietnam in 2008. We just celebrated 5 years together and 6 years knowing each other. I am so anxious to bring him here, and hope that becomes a reality in the next few months.

    I do not know if I should go ahead and apply for a fiance Visa in anticipation of a positive ruling from the Court, or wait until the ruling is released. I fear if I apply now and the ruling is negative that it might ruin his chances of obtaining a Tourist Visa in the future. I also wonder if I were to apply for the Fiance Visa, how do I prove he has been my fiance/bf for these last several years – or if that is even necessary. I guess I have some more research to do.

    Your photo together is beautiful and I wish you ALL the best. Muaaa!

    June 21, 2013
    • Wes

      Thank you so much for taking your time to read our story. I don’t think now is a good time to apply for the fiance visa. Especially while DOMA is still enacted. I would wait if i were you. The Visa application will only hurt your partner at the moment. I am from Asia as well and the U.S embassy in Vietnam is not that easy to go through. Stay strong, Jeff. Lets hope that the supreme court will bring us the real justice and equality. Best wishes to you.

      Wes

      June 24, 2013

Leave a comment


Name*

Email(will not be published)*

Website

Your comment*

Submit Comment

Comment moderation is enabled. Your comment may take some time to appear.

© The DOMA Project

Attorney advertising

This is a pro-bono project of the law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC. Posts on this website are offered for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. The law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC has offices in New York and Los Angeles. Our practice is limited to U.S. Immigration & Nationality Law.