Married Gay Couple Raising Four Children: How DOMA Has Denied Security to Our Family

We met through a friend in a large East coast city in 2003 and we immediately realized we had a lot in common including wanting eventually to raise children. When we met, my husband, who is from South America, was in the United States on an unexpired visa. We started dating and we did not give much thought to the immigration issues; we assumed that once this visa was no longer valid, he would extend his stay or find another visa, and eventually, somehow, a green card. We did not realize quite what we were up against. We were in love, and that was about as much as needed to know.

As these things go, the story gets more complicated. Two years into our relationship his visa expired and could not be renewed. If we had been able to marry then, we would have done so. But in those days marriage equality was still in its embryonic stages. We registered for a domestic partnership in the city in which we lived. Finally, in 2006 we were married in Massachusetts under state law, and in 2007 in front of all our family and friends, we had a religious wedding at our synagogue.

With these life milestone events behind us, we were as committed as ever about starting a family.

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Immediately after the wedding we began to explore options for adoption; we had some concern that my husband’s immigration status could present a barrier or a complication, but we were determined not to be forced to wait to move our lives forward. We always felt that of the many different ways to adopt, we wanted to adopt slightly older children who were in the foster care system. We knew there were so many who needed homes and that these children tended to have a tougher time finding adoptive parents and in many instances were bounced from foster home to foster home never finding adoptive parents. To our surprise, even though we were now living in a state that did not recognize our marriage or domestic partnership, the agency we found was willing to work with gay couples even though only one of us would be able to legally adopt the children under that state’s laws. We count ourselves very fortunate that two wonderful children were placed with us very quickly and we are now two years into the bliss and hard work that is parenthood.

Even though the state considers them as only having one legal parent, as far as they are concerned they have two dads who love them. Two years later we adopted again, this time two more beautiful children. We could not be happier and more excited about our growing family. Love is in abundance in our home and we are devoted to giving our children the security and guidance to ensure that they achieve their potential in life.

Have moved away from the East coast years ago, we now live in a quiet, friendly suburban town in a somewhat red state. We were initially a little worried that we might not be accepted into the circle of other families with young kids where we live. To our pleasant surprise, we have found that except for being two dads, we have much in common with all the other families, and we feel very integrated into our small community. At a distance we may seem like a lot of the other families and in a lot of ways we are. But, unlike the parents of our children’s playmates, we live in fear that, at anytime, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement might discover that my husband is here on an expired visa and initiate proceedings to remove him from the United States. The reality we live with every day is that my husband, who is staying at home now full-time to care for the kids while I work, could be deported. In the eyes of federal law he is a single, childless foreigner who is without lawful status. Sure, we would fight and hopefully stop a deportation on the basis of new rules that are meant to protect LGBT families, but those are discretionary guidelines, and we know that such a fight would put us and our children through torture.

So, if you look at our family a little more carefully you will notice a few differences. We are cautious, perhaps to a fault, because we are so afraid of my husband being discovered, even if just by accident. So we never go to any airport, believing airports even for domestic flights to be risky places. My husband has not left this country or seen his family back home for 15 years. My husband drives five miles below the speed limit, always mindful that our survival as a family depends on his avoiding being stopped by the police. And if anyone ever asks us about his immigration status (which so many people do in a good-natured way) you will hear our canned, evasive answer followed by an immediate shift in the topic of conversation. Sure some of these precautions may strike you as over-the-top. We don’t feel like we can let down our guard until there is full legal recognition for our family by the federal government. Our four beautiful children need their two loving dads, and should never have to experience a high-stakes fight to keep our family intact. They deserve a peaceful and stable childhood, not one interrupted and shaken by the discrimination caused by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). That is why, after 10 years, we decided to end our perpetual fear of the unknown and chart a different path, characterized by a more assertive approach. We have joined The DOMA Project by telling our story and filing for a green card. Enough is enough. We cannot sit back and wait for change to happen. We must make it happen.

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In so many ways, we are like all other families, but because of DOMA our family is not recognized by federal law, and so we must live with the anxiety that our family could be torn apart at any time, and our children could lose their dad. Ironically, my sister who is straight, also married a foreigner. They are a wonderful couple. They have also long since decided not to have any children together. They met in the same month of the same year that my husband and I met. However, once they married, she was immediately able to arrange for his green card and, two years ago, he became a proud American citizen. I wish them all the best and love them, but sometimes can’t help feeling a little envious of what my sister was able to do for her husband that I cannot do for mine.

Help us keep up the momentum toward positive change as Congress weighs whether to include LGBT families in comprehensive immigration reform. Consider our family, and think about the importance of ending this nightmare immediately. No couple should ever be torn apart, and no parent should ever have to say goodbye to his or her children.

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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.