FIGHTING TO STAY TOGETHER: Inger and Philippa Forced Apart by DOMA For Now, Brought Closer with Wedding Vows

Marrying in Iowa – April, 2012

In just a few days I will be forced to leave my wife, our child, and our home behind in the United States because our family isn’t recognized or respected under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Last September, my family and I came to the conclusion that Inger and I needed to be legally married in the States. On April 3, 2012 we drove from our home state to Iowa (the closest marriage equality state) and tie the knot. We chose April 3rd because it is the anniversary of our first commitment ceremony three years ago.

I confess I was scared stiff of getting married, like anyone would be.  But deep down I had no doubt that it was right choice for my beautiful wife and me. I wanted our family to have the stability that a legal marriage provides, and that society provides for legal spouses. But I know that, at the federal level, our marriage does not mean we are any closer to being together permanently because of DOMA and current U.S. immigration laws.  But for me it makes all the difference on an emotional level.  It means everything to my family, that Inger and I are married, not “married”, and that we are legally recognized as one another’s wife.

Kissing the Bride

The folks in Story County, Iowa were absolutely amazing on our big day. There was no hint of disapproval or judgment. We both walked in wearing political t-shirts (“Some chicks marry chicks. Get over it.“) and collected the paperwork we needed to get hitched. When we returned later that day after the ceremony, they couldn’t have been more complimentary and well wishing to us.

So a big thank you, from my whole family, to everyone who helped us that day in Story County. Also a big thanks to our friend April, who arranged everything for us, to Gary, who saved us when we needed a second witness, and to Homie, for performing the ceremony and providing the beautiful scenic location.

Our marriage has truly changed the way I feel about so much in just a few days. Even though leaving so soon breaks me in two, I felt so fortunate to have seen my wife happier than I have ever seen before. The joy in her eyes means everything to me. I know that this was the right decision for our family, and I am more motivated than ever to tell the world about how much my family deserves basic equal respect

Us in front of the Story County, Iowa Registrar’s Office

The timing of this trip was not just about us getting married. It was also about Easter and our daughter’s birthday. Turning 12 is a big deal and I was happy to be there for her big day. I know there will be more special days, but an unjust law should never be allowed to deny me those moments.

On a bittersweet note, when we booked the flights we didn’t know the dates of our daughter’s spring show. It turns out that her big performance is two days after I leave. I have not been able to see her perform in person once in the last four years of our family being together. I can only see my daughter via videos from her school. I feel gutted to be honest. But there is no way I can change my flights right now to make this happen. It pains me to know that my wife will sit in the school auditorium watching our talented daughter’s great performance. I will only share it with her via text messages. I truly cherish every moment I get to spend with my family.  I just want to be a great wife and great parent. I want to be able to show them how proud of am of their amazing achievements.

Until DOMA is repealed I do not get to start doing that.

I tell our story to the world because I know that sharing our experiences, sharing our lives, will lead to change we need. It has been over four years of traveling back and forth, and I genuinely love my wife more with every day. I never regret the path that I have chosen because I know that when we have true equality and our life can begin together properly, that the moments we spent apart will feel like distant memories. The fact that she married me is just the next step in our big adventure…

On behalf of everyone involved with the Stop the Deportations – the DOMA Project campaign, we extend heartfelt congratulations to Inger & Philippa.

OutFront Colorado: DOMA Separates Inger & Philippa

Lives on hold: Lesbian couple, one of thousands, torn apart by DOMA, immigration policy
By Nic Garcia

Philippa, a British woman, and her partner, Coloradan Inger Knudson, embrace each other. The two haven’t seen each other in nearly eight months.

When Coloradan Inger Knudson committed her life to Philippa, an English woman, atop Lookout Mountain in 2009, the last thing she feared was her family would be ripped apart by the United States government.

Philippa, who asked her last name not to be used out of fear of legal repercussions, packed up her life in the UK and was set to help Knudson raise her daughter in Colorado. But five days before she was to leave the UK in 2009 — information the couple had been given, information they believed would lead them to a permanent fix to their immigration troubles was wrong. After being in the US for 89 days, Philippa returned to the United Kingdom until the couple could find another path to be together.

Today, they communicate by email, Web cam and an Internet phone service. Often times, they spend more time trying to establish a workable connection then actually chatting about their day. And when they finally get a connection, there’s that seven hour time difference. Philippa has usually ended her work day – she has two jobs – and Knudson is eating lunch, studying for her new career as a massage therapist.

“This is our life,” Knudson said.

“People don’t realize, they think it’s the distance,” Philippa echoes. “But it’s also time. I go through my morning, my day until 3 or 4 in the afternoon sometimes before we talk. We both have dual clocks on our cell phone so we know if it’s too early to call.”

Philippa is quick to point out their immigration troubles is just a single case of discrimination by the federal government. She pointed out there are more than 1,000 rights tax-paying gay and lesbian couples are denied.

“I don’t understand any of it,” she said. “It’s outright discrimination, immigration or not. I’m (eventually) going to be moving to a country, where, for the last three years I’ve been treated like a criminal.”

What keeps them 5,000 miles apart is the national Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage between a man and a woman at the federal level…”

Knudson said she would move to England if she could. But because her daughter’s father lives in Colorado, she can’t. So, she said, it’s a matter of time before either DOMA is repealed, the UAFA is passed or her daughter is old enough.

“I met somebody I share an emotional bond with, an intellectual bond with,” Knudson said about Philippa. “We laugh, she’s a really good person. I found someone I could believe in. I’ve never felt so valued in a relationship. I’ve never felt so safe in a relationship.”

Inger and Philippa Prepare for Another Christmas on Webcam: Love Without Borders

At the end of a visit, Philippa hugs their ten-year old
daughter who knows her as Mum

Here we are, with the holidays quickly approaching. My daughter and I are trying to prepare and take pleasure in the season. Sounds happy enough, except for the fact that my wife, the woman my daughter calls “Mum,” is 5,000 miles and 7 hours away from us in the UK. The emptiness that is a prevailing theme as we pick out gifts and drag out decorations is almost palatable. Even the littlest things, like having to think again about sending packages overseas and wondering if they’ll arrive in time reminds us of what is missing. The knowledge that it will be another Christmas on webcam takes much of the joy out of the situation.

My name is Inger. I am a US citizen and my partner, Philippa, is British. Together we have a 10 year old daughter who knows Philippa as her Mum.

We have been struggling to find solutions to the inequalities in the US Immigration system for about 2 ½ years. In that time, Philippa has been here 6 times and my daughter and I have been to the UK twice. The longest we have managed to spend together in one sitting is 89 days. That’s just under 3 months. When you think about it, that’s no time at all, especially when this person you haven’t seen for more than 89 days is your spouse. It’s hard to create a home and raise your family and be part of “normal” everyday life when that life depends on telephones, computers and the occasional visit lasting, usually, between 8 to 23 days. When we had a commitment ceremony, and our daughter gave me away, it was a beautiful thing and one of the proudest days of my life… less than 2 weeks later she was gone.

The United States of America is very big on the idea of family; however, it seems hypocritical to tell me that my family isn’t “the right kind.” Those who express bigotry against lesbian and gay Americans seek to deny us our basic human rights. As an American in a binational relationship I am encouraged to leave my own country as a solution to our immigration woes. The purveyors of the Family Values propaganda are not the ones who have to hold their young child at night when she wants her mum; to try to explain and to rationalize why her mother has to leave after 3 weeks when it’s been 6 ½ months since we’ve seen her last; to keep her feeling safe when she knows that we don’t know when we’ll be reunited next; and, above all else, to keep her faith and trust in us that we are doing everything we possibly can to fix this.

Family Values rhetoric has been enshrined in our laws, and those laws deny us the right to live together as a family. You might say we are lucky to have the option to move to the UK, where same-sex binational couples have had immigration rights since 1997. However, we cannot move to the UK because my daughter’s father lives here in Colorado. It would be wrong to deprive my daughter of her relationship with her father. That is a choice we should not have to make, because Philippa should be able to move here and live with us. But the U.S. government does not see it that way. The Defense of Marriage Act denies access to the protections of U.S. law including the family unification policy of immigration law through which all other Americans in my position would simply sponsor their spouse for a green card. The Defense of Marriage Act wages a war of cruel consequences against us. It was passed in the name of family values. Whose family? The proponents never said. This law must be repealed in the name of fairness and justice. And in the name of valuing family.

When I describe our situation to others they are appalled. Philippa is willing to give up her whole life, leave everything she knows and has in the UK so that she can be with us and yet she is made to feel unwanted by the country of The Great Melting Pot and The Land of Opportunity. She is educated, industrious, moral and kind and would be an asset to our community. With her by my side, we would live happier and more productive lives. What child wouldn’t thrive in a home with loving caring and supportive parents? Philippa has to view our daughter’s triumphs and hard times through email, or video instead of being able to cheer her on in person or hug her fears away. When our girl asks a seemingly simple question of “When is Mum coming home?” Would you want to be the one answering those questions, looking into that confused and trusting face, seeing it crumble and fall? No one would want to fall in love, only to feel that they have caused pain to the rest of their family. But we could no more give up on each other, than breathe water or sprout wings. And so, we carry on. Facing each new day as it comes, knowing that still in our trying situation, we are luckier than so many others.

I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I in Philippa I have found my life mate, my forever one, the only person with whom I could ever truly raise my life’s work, our daughter. I will wait and fight and petition and call and volunteer and cry and shake my fists at the heavens until my beautiful and most precious wife is safely home and we are all united. Permanently. A simple thing really. No fireworks, no fanfare…just to be together…just to be. What I wouldn’t give.

In the mean time, we waffle between celebrating and forgetting that we are missing birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, milestones and every precious minute we are apart. Vowing never to waste a moment when we can finally stop the clock that is slicing our days together into moments left. To silence that ticking that underscores everything. Just to be. Together. Whole. Always.


Denver Post: Inger & Philippa Battle Separation

“I don’t want any special rights at all. All I want is to live with my family,” says Philippa, 33. Via Skype, she helps do homework with the 10-year-old who calls her “Mum.” People ask why they do it, pressing on with such a tough relationship. You can choose what you eat or wear, they answer. You don’t choose who you fall in love with. ”We don’t want to keep doing this, shaking our fists at the sky wanting the world to be fairer than it is,” [Inger] Knudson says. “But we will, we will for as long as it takes to be together.”

“U.S. Policy and Same-Sex Love Are Oceans Apart,” Denver Post November 18, 2010. See full article here.

© The DOMA Project

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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.