There’s No Place Like Home: An Ocean Apart and Married, Lindsey and Katie Fight DOMA to Live Together in Kansas

Aug 15 2011

My name is Lindsey, and for the past four years, my partner and I have maintained a relationship and a marriage across an ocean. Despite being legally married, we are unable to share a home in the United States. The Defense of Marriage Act, also known as DOMA, makes our marriage invisible in the eyes of the U.S. government.

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Katie and I met in the summer of 2008. We worked together at a summer camp in my home state of Kansas. The camp is just 30 minutes from my hometown, but for Katie the job took her 4,000 miles from home. An British citizen, Katie was planning to spend four months in Kansas on a summer work visa. Neither of us expected our summer relationship to last past August. On November 4th, 2008, the same day that President Obama was elected into office, we stood in front of an airport departure gate and agreed to see what our future had in store.

The next couple of years were full of the most extreme highs and lows that a couple can imagine. While most new couples might worry about going on double dates and learning how to share the covers, we were waking up early for Skype dates and saving for flights. There were days when it seemed like it was just too much, but by 2010 we had our first big shot at hope. In March 2010 Katie began an 18-month internship with the very same camp at which we met. In August of 2011, near the end of her internship, Katie and I were married in a private commitment ceremony on a beach in Texas. Our officiate told us if same-sex marriage were ever to became legal in Texas, she would marry us again for free! Staff at a nearby hotel saw us out the window and cheered after it was over. Just two months later, Katie’s internship ended and without a job to sponsor her again she was forced to return to England. Because of this situation, we have spent just 4 months of our first year and only half of our marriage together in the same country.

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It’s not for lack of effort that we are apart. Katie has sought work in the United States and Canada throughout our time apart. She was even offered a job in the U.S., but after a drawn-out application process the visa was denied. Katie has also sought full-time work in the U.K., but has yet to meet the requirements to sponsor my immigration to England (we face legal barriers there due to our temporarily low income). During our separation, Katie has returned to Kansas as a visitor several times, and just one day after our first year anniversary we legally married in Iowa. Our lawful marriage in Iowa still did not afford us federal recognition, but it felt right to us. Since our commitment ceremony in Texas, we have always considered ourselves a married couple.

Holidays are especially hard. They serve as a reminder of how long we have been apart. In spite of having known one another for 5 years, we have spent only one Thanksgiving together. In that same time, we have spent two Christmas mornings as a couple, and two more apart. This year we will spend our third Christmas together in England. We’ve also had a New Years Eve kiss two years in a row, one in each country. I can count every Halloween, every birthday, and every Valentine’s we have spent together, and how many more of each we have spent apart.

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We never have and never will separate by choice. Our relationship has been ruled by the departure stamps in our passports. Despite the times we are apart – months at a time – I would not give up my Katie or our marriage for anything. The times we are together are the happiest moments of my life. I feel like the rest of my life is simply on hold while we are apart. When she is gone, every day is about waiting for her to come home. I would take a day every year with her over a “normal” life without her in it. Regardless of our future, we are committed to each other. That’s what marriage means to us – a commitment to remain by each other’s side, even if there are six time zones and an ocean between us.

For our lives to change, federal law needs to change. DOMA denies couples like us the federal marriage-based benefits that we need to be together. Because of DOMA, I cannot sponsor my legal wife for her immigration to the United States. We are just one of thousands of couples with similar stories. And while we have obeyed the law for five long years, it has continued to keep us apart day after day. As our stories increasingly gain media coverage, we are certain that the world will wake up to what DOMA really is – legislated bigotry. We know that eventually DOMA will fall and justice will prevail. By sharing our story, we’re doing our part to build public sentiment against DOMA and hold the U.S. government accountable to gay and lesbian binational couples once DOMA is gone for good. We have waited far too long for DOMA’s end to sit on the sidelines now. Please join us by sharing our story with everyone you know.

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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.