Engaged! In Maryland, Saman and Kim Fight For a Future Without DOMA, Anticipating Supreme Court Ruling
Our story begins with two journeys converging onto one path.
Kim and I came to the United States of America for different reasons. I came here in 2007 as a refugee from my home country of Iran. Being a gay man in the Middle East was very difficult. Homosexuality is not tolerated by the government. I endured years of loneliness; I never opened up to my family about my sexuality out of the fear of rejection. When I came to this country, I was on my own. My partner, Kim, left the Philippines for America to finish his nursing degree in 2011, reuniting with his family living in the U.S. upon his arrival. For the first few months, his life revolved around school and family. He went to school, then came back home. That was his routine. Looking back at how different our backgrounds were, it seems miraculous that our lives ever crossed paths.
We met each other in March, 2012 through a dating website. I recall sending Kim that first email. I was so anxious to see if he would reply. Fortunately, he responded, and our conversation just took off. We slowly began to get to know each other. We exchanged numbers and found each other on Facebook the same night we met. That was a Monday or a Tuesday. Two days later, I knew that I had to meet Kim in person. We scheduled our first meeting for that Friday, after his last class of the day.
The first time we saw each other face to face was in a parking lot. As cheesy as it might sound, it was love at first sight. We spent the evening discussing our personal hopes and dreams. He told me that he’d left the Philippines just one year before graduation so that he could earn his Bachelor’s degree in nursing and start afresh here in America. We talked for hours, until we finally realized that it was nearly 9:00 p.m. Kim had to return to Baltimore. I gave him a ride back, and we spent the trip holding each other’s hands. I still remember the tingling sensation on my arm. Days after that first meeting, we were both already talking about blossoming into a serious relationship. Neither of us was looking for a short-term fling; we both wanted a long-term commitment. We even discussed the prospect of marriage. Maybe we were moving too fast, but we both felt very sure of what we were feeling. We’ve been inseparable ever since.
For the first two months, we managed to keep our relationship a secret. But we figured that our families had to know about us sooner or later. We decided to reveal our relationship to Kim’s mom. However, she didn’t take it very well. She thought that Kim would abandon his goal of nursing, despite the fact that Kim had proven himself to be a stellar student both in his home country and at his college in Maryland. We were disappointed, but we continued to build our relationship. After all, we knew in our hearts that our love was real, and would only make us stronger, not distract us from long-term goals.
In November 2012, we found ourselves captivated by the elections, particularly the Question 6 Referendum in Maryland. Question 6 was about The Marriage Equality Act. At stake in the referendum was whether gay and lesbian couples would have the right to marry like everyone else. Kim and I eagerly anticipated the results along with our fellow Marylanders. When the referendum succeeded, we were ecstatic to know that we resided in a state that supports marriage equality.
However, one last hurdle remains in our bid to be together, and that is the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Kim and I want to get married after marriage equality passed in Maryland, but we have decided to put it off until our marriage will be recognized on a federal level. That dream will only become a reality if DOMA is struck down. We understand what so many binational LGBT couples here in America are going through. The U.S. Constitution states that everyone is to be treated equally in the eyes of the law, so why is that equality not applicable if you are gay or lesbian? What makes us different from any other human being? We fall in love like everyone else, and we desire to make lifelong commitments with our partners. Kim and I, along with our fellow gay and lesbian binational couples, look forward to a positive ruling on DOMA. We have decided to share our story through The DOMA Project to ensure that 2013 will be the year when all of us are finally treated as equals. We will continue telling our story and sharing it with the world until the federal government must recognize our future marriage. Even now, every story shared makes a difference. Please join us.
LOVE TRIUMPHS: Together for 26 Years in Five Countries, Eleanor and Fumiko Fight DOMA as Exiles in Canada
Fumiko and I met in New York City in the fall of 1986. I was 46 years old and working as a computer programmer. I had three children in their early twenties. Fumiko, a Japanese woman of 37, had been living in Mexico for some years, studying weaving. She was living in New York at the time with a friend and was planning to go from there to Guatemala, where she wanted to learn their indigenous weaving techniques.
Because she was looking for an opportunity to practice English and I was looking to learn Japanese, our friend Martita introduced us. Immediately, I was fascinated by Fumiko’s strong personality and deep voice, though it wasn’t clear at the beginning whether Fumiko was a lesbian. Little by little we got acquainted, with our Japanese-English dictionary never far from hand, and eventually we became lovers. For six weeks, we spent a lot of time together, but when January came, Fumiko had to leave. That month was a flurry of activity as I quit my job, subletted my apartment, and departed to join Fumiko in Antigua, Guatemala.
What a strange and exotic place! And what a wonderful reunion! We rented a small house in Antigua and bought a few furnishings. Life there was simple albeit a little boring, with the exception of our new love affair. Both being on tourist visas, we had to exit the country every three months, so there were a couple of interesting trips over the border to Mexico. By the third exit, we decided to leave Guatemala and go to live in Mexico City, where Fumiko had lived before. Taking many bolsas of accumulated household goods, we found a nice apartment in the center of town, right behind the American Embassy. Fumiko introduced me to her many friends there, but I grew increasingly restless, caught between Spanish and Japanese and having no real business in Mexico, aside from being with Fumiko. Eventually, I decided to leave and “do something else”. It had been a year since I had left New York.
“Something else” turned out to be a journey to Japan! Fumiko wrote to her various relatives and issued orders that this “Eleanor” was to be treated like a queen. They took me to local festivals, treated me to endless dinners, and even included me in a weekend trip to a hot-spring resort. After a few weeks, I found a job teaching English and got an apartment and a working visa. I was lonely, but Japan was fascinating and I discovered many things about the country on my own, being forced to do things myself that I might have relied on Fumiko to handle had she been there. I studied the Japanese language, kimono-wearing, abacus-calculating and even won a speech contest in Japanese! After about seven months, Fumiko left Mexico and returned to Japan to join me. We lived together for the remaining five months of my stay. In May of 1989, we returned to New York together.
We lived together in New York for a total of five years. Fumiko studied English, and studied English, and studied English. After six months, her tourist visa expired, and she applied for an extension. She was turned down. A postcard arrived from INS (the precursor to USCIS) saying that she would be deported if she didn’t leave immediately. Then nothing. She was suddenly undocumented. Fumiko couldn’t work, but I was making good money as a computer programmer while studying linguistics at the CUNY Graduate Center part time. We started getting to know other immigrants, with and without valid documentation, and realized that even undocumented immigrants have a life, and in New York City not such a bad one. Someone told us that “undocumented aliens” could attend one of the universities in New York, and even get the resident tuition rate. That was very exciting to Fumiko, who had never been to college, so she spent the next year studying English even harder and taking the TOEFL several times. Finally, in September of 1992, she entered LaGuardia Community College.
For Fumiko, LaGuardia was a wonderful experience. She read books, wrote papers, visited museums and libraries, and discovered great satisfaction in learning, thinking, and discussing a whole range of subjects. Her interest was especially kindled by cultural anthropology: the customs, beliefs, art, and mythology of various societies. She found the American system of education very stimulating, with emphasis placed on the value of each person’s contribution, each culture’s differences. Also, around this time I started attending meetings of the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force (later known as Immigration Equality) an organization which had been formed in 1993 by Lavi Soloway, who is also co-founder of The DOMA Project. Through this involvement, I started to participate in advocacy as a member of a community of lesbian and gay binational couples.
In January of 1994 Fumiko graduated from LaGuardia with an Associate of Arts degree and entered Hunter College as a junior, but she was increasingly anxious about money. Without valid documented status, she couldn’t work in the United States, and I was now a full-time student living off a small inheritance, so there wasn’t much money to go around. At 46, Fumiko worried more and more about getting sick, having no insurance or savings to fall back on, and no pension for her old age. Perhaps also the discomfort of being totally dependent on me added to the stress of living in a foreign country, in a foreign language.
Fumiko returned to Japan in July 1994. She got a job in Tokyo that she was pleased with, and began to rebuild her life there. I visited Tokyo for two weeks over New Year (the big holiday in Japan). I was now a doctoral candidate in linguistics at CUNY and, at 54, I felt that if I didn’t finish soon, it was unlikely that I ever would. Fortunately, I managed to get a graduate student fellowship in Japan for the summer of 1995, so Fumiko and I were able to be together for most of three months. After returning to New York and my dissertation research; long distance phone calls continued once a week, with e-mails in between.
In July of 1996, after a 10-month separation, I packed up my computer and 70 lbs. of Xeroxed references and went to Tokyo to work on my dissertation there. Thanks to the wonder of the internet, I was able to do my writing and research abroad! I spent six months in Japan in two 3-month stays (the length of a tourist visa), and returned to New York in February 1997 to complete my degree.
After I graduated with a Ph.D. in October, 1997, I went to Japan and got a job teaching English, and eventually a post-doctoral fellowship for two years. We both enjoyed those years in Japan (1995-2001, more or less), though we knew it wasn’t a permanent situation. During that time, Fumiko spent a couple of years completing the college work that she had started in New York, and eventually qualified for a student visa to the U.S. So, in 2001, we both returned to New York.
For three years, we tried various arrangements. I did some adjunct teaching and eventually found an IT job, where I worked until my retirement in 2007. Fumiko studied web design, and did an apprenticeship in real estate. Eventually, however, the visa that Fumiko held had to be renewed and she could not show the proper documents. Faced with an inflexible immigration system that had no room for her, in 2004 she decided to return to Japan once more.
At this point, it seemed there was no way for us to be together. It is is notoriously difficult to get permanent residency in Japan, especially for a person over 60, nearing retirement. So Fumiko got a job in Japan (one that she enjoyed very much) and reconnected with her friends there, building a new life. I was forlorn. Fortunately, I happened to hear a talk by a Canadian immigration lawyer, and learned that it was possible for both of us to emigrate to Canada. Previously unthinkable, it suddenly seemed like a desirable solution for a couple out of options. We began preparing our applications in early 2005.
In the summer of 2007, just after my retirement, we found out that our applications were approved by the Canadian consulate. By that time, Fumiko had created a new career for herself in Japan, working with developmentally disabled young adults. Being in Japan also meant being available to assist her older sister, who has debilitating osteoporosis. It was difficult for her to leave but, for both of us, being together turned out to be more important than any other consideration, and we are grateful to Canada for making that possible. Neither Japan nor the United States offered us this hospitality.
Fumiko began to wind down her life in Japan, arriving in New York once again in the fall of 2008. Meanwhile, I was overseeing the care of my mother, Vicki, who also lived in New York and had Alzheimer’s. We ultimately decided that my mother would be moved to a nursing home in Boston, near my sister. It was a hard decision; I was very conflicted and felt as though I was abandoning her. After emptying my mother’s apartment, Fumiko and I prepared for our own move to Toronto, which happened early in January 2008.
We quickly settled into our life in Toronto, finding a permanent apartment and involving ourselves in the community. Fumiko was not able to find a job in line with her previous work of caring for the developmentally disabled, so she went into food preparation, working as an assistant sushi chef. In 2012, Fumiko started a three-year full-time art program run by the Toronto School Board. Fortunately, it is very inexpensive and quite thorough, including painting and drawing, print-making, photography, sculpture, and ceramics. She’s totally energized by the work and the community, and she’s well on her way to becoming an artist! For the first time, she feels fortunate to be in Toronto.
For me, I am retired, and I find a lot to amuse me–Toronto is not so different from New York, just smaller and gentler. We live in a small neighborhood in West Toronto where I am an officer of the local residents association and also organize a seniors social group. I lead a women’s reading group, maintain a website for an older women’s advocacy group, keep active in the gay community, and follow local politics and theatre. Toronto has a lot to offer us.
Having lived in Toronto now for five years, we are happy here as permanent residents, notwithstanding the separation from both of our families. On my regular visits to the U.S., I enjoy being a hands-on grandmother. My grandson really is terminally cute and cuddly. In the same month I first visited my grandson, my mother died at age 97, peacefully in her sleep. We held a memorial service for her in New York during my time there. I continue to travel to the U.S. to visit my dentist and find affordable vitamins. So, between a growing family, an old dentist, and cheap vitamins, I may have to keep coming back to the Big Apple from time to time.
Last August, we got married in Massachusetts. As my son notes, we took a very pragmatic attitude about celebrating our marriage. After all, we’ve been together for over 25 years! We simply wanted the added ease and security that a marriage certificate offers. Nonetheless, we were both thrilled to be celebrating our love for one another with family and friends.
Fumiko and I have endured many separations in the 26 years of our relationship. Our connection is very strong, despite differences of language and culture, and even of age. Our lives before meeting one another had taken quite different paths, and we may seem to be an unlikely couple. But we both feel that we are alike in many important ways, and that we really appreciate our differences as well as our similarities. We support and encourage one another through good times and bad. Sometimes there is frustration and anger, but usually there is love and laughter–especially now that we have the security of knowing that we will not have to separate again.
We’re well aware that there are many couples out there who have not yet found their safe haven. Our story is just one example of the unacceptable choices that binational couples like us have been forced to make since DOMA’s introduction in 1996. Couples like us, who have committed no crime but to fall in love with a foreigner, are asked to choose between the person we love and the country we call home. For this reason,we have been involved in the gay and lesbian binational community’s struggle for fair and equal treatment in immigration law since the beginning. It is long past time to end this discrimination against our families. We will not stop telling our story until DOMA is finished and families like ours will no longer be torn apart. Please consider sharing our story and contributing to The DOMA Project. Our fight is not yet over.
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.
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.
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.
After Five Years, College Sweethearts, Ned and Emilio Defer Dreams to Contend with Threat of DOMA Exile
Sometimes, it seems hard to believe that Emilio and I ever met. In a huge world with billions of people, we somehow found our way to each other and changed our lives forever. Meeting my partner Emilio has been the product of a series of incredibly improbable events. Like individual scenes playing out one by one, they have built up to the beginnings of a promising life together. Nonetheless, we know that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) threatens our future as a same-sex bi-national couple.
For having grown up in a religiously devout family in rural New Mexico, my “coming out” was by and large a seamless transition. Thanks to an uncle of mine who was brave enough to come out decades earlier, my loving family made my experience as normal and blessed as any other. As I grew into adulthood, they were there for the highs and lows of dating and life in general.
More than 5,000 miles across the globe in Cordoba, Argentina, Emilio had his own experience and struggle to come into his identity. Although his experience was much more complicated than my own, the hardships he faced ultimately led us both to be in the same place at the same time. I have always envied Emilio’s incredible bravery and ability to take a blind leap of faith, never knowing what lies ahead. Emilio took the first of such leaps in 2003 when he decided to leave Argentina – his mom, brother, and all he had ever known – to move to Albuquerque, New Mexico with his dad, step-mom and baby sister. That single decision brought us within 100 miles of each other.
We know now that there were probably many opportunities to have met before we finally did. During high school, we were both involved in Student Council, which brought together high schools from across New Mexico, yet somehow, we never attended the same event. After high school, we both enrolled at the University of New Mexico where we surely crossed paths, perhaps on a daily basis on campus. Nevertheless, we never seemed to notice one other. It was not until a summer night in 2008, when we were both out at a popular nightclub with our respective friends, that one of us noticed the other at all.
Emilio remembers seeing me entering the building with a friend of mine and shouting at me to get my attention. However, I did not see him and walked away. Weeks later, he was scrolling the social network MySpace and my profile randomly came up. Emilio immediately recognized my face as “the guy who walked away”. In typical Emilio fashion, he decided to take a shot in the dark and send me a message just to tell me that he thought I was cute. I am so glad that he did because it changed my life.
After some time of back and forth communication, we exchanged numbers and made plans for our first date. I remember being incredibly nervous and not knowing what to expect. Sure we communicated great via text, but would we hit it off in person? He had seen me in person, but I had never seen him except for in photographs. I was excited yet completely terrified to meet him. My memory of the date is exceptionally vivid till this day. He talked and I listened. He talked some more, and some more… Basically Emilio just loves to talk; his charisma is one of the most attractive things about him for me. It helps that he also has the sexiest accent ever.
In a lot of ways, we really were not either of each other’s type on paper. He was free spirited, extroverted, tattooed, pierced and studying psychology. I was über-structured, introverted, clean cut and studying political science. Nevertheless, it worked against all odds.
Over the next several years our relationship took off. After some time, he met my entire family and I met his family in Albuquerque. I also traveled to Argentina with him for Christmas break in 2009 where I met the rest of his beautiful family and his hometown. Months after our trip to Argentina, we moved in together. Since then we have shared countless holidays, birthdays, vacations, and family events together. We grew as a couple and endured painful losses. Together we were able to accomplish anything we set our minds to. Nevertheless, one seemingly insurmountable obstacle stood in our way: DOMA and Emilio’s immigration status in this country.
Emilio’s dad and step-mom came to the United States with intentions to return to Argentina someday. When plans changed and the family decided to make the United States their permanent home (through an immigration petition from his step-mom’s employer) Emilio had already turned twenty-one years old, and so thus missed out on the swift path to a green card that would come from being the child of a legal permanent resident. Emilio was ultimately forced to wait at the back of a 5-year waiting list for a green card that would allow him permanent residency in the U.S. This situation makes building a stable life together very difficult, to say the least.
Our first scare in this nightmare came in 2011 when we both graduated from the University of New Mexico. What was supposed to be a sheer period of joy in our accomplishments was laced with fear and anxiety. Emilio was (and still is) here on a F-1 student visa. In order for him to be able to remain here with me, he must remain a student or return home to wait for an uncertain amount of years until he is able to return through his parent’s pending petition. Though he had been here since age fourteen, feels more American than Argentinean, and had been with me for three years; Emilio’s only option was to gain acceptance into a graduate program.
The normal anxieties of a graduate admissions process were exacerbated by the reality that our very relationship and even my future in my own country would be decided by a committee of professors and admissions officers we had never even met. Though we worked relentlessly to keep each other optimistic of a positive outcome, it was truly the most frightening experience of our young lives.
After all was said and done, Emilio was accepted to graduate school and we swiftly made the move to Oakland, California in August, 2011. Emilio has been attending the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco ever since. However, this chapter in our life together will end in May 2014 when Emilio graduates with his Master’s degree. Once again, our backs will be up against the wall. We have two options and no room for error. Unfortunately, the green card waiting time has virtually gone unchanged in the past few years, and DOMA still stands as the law of the land. Now, Emilio must either enter a Ph.D. program or we will have to seek exile in Argentina and wait for DOMA to be struck down or repealed before we could return.
I aspire to be an immigration attorney, in part as a result of our experience together. However, I have been forced to put this dream on hold in light of the threat that Emilio may be forced to leave the country we call home. In addition, given work restrictions on international students, I have been forced to carry an overwhelming majority of the financial responsibility for the two of us. As a result, I have sometimes had to work multiple twelve-hour shifts per week in order to cover the cost of living in the Bay Area. Although Emilio has made incredible strides to put himself in a position to secure employment upon graduation, it is a real possibility he will have to decline every offer for lack of a permanent legal status and the employment authorization that would allow him to capitalize on all of his hard work. It has been hard on me, but I know it’s not easy for him either. Nonetheless, we continue to power through it every week because the alternative – to be separated by over 5,000 miles – is simply not an option.
If and when Section 3 of DOMA and California’s Proposition 8 were ruled unconstitutional, Emilio and I plan to get married in San Francisco with our closest friends and family in attendance. Shortly after that, we would file for the immigration benefits we deserve with the intention of securing a green card prior to Emilio’s graduation. At that time, it would most certainly lift the weight of the world off our shoulders. The looming uncertainty we have lived with for the past five years would be gone. Emilio could focus solely on securing employment post-graduation, instead of worrying about how he will stay with me and his family that are still in New Mexico. I would finally be able to move forward with the dream I have left on hold with the peace of mind that we will never be forced to pack up and leave if we do not choose to do so ourselves.
Today, we are sharing our story because we believe it is important for the world to know what’s at stake in the upcoming Supreme Court decision DOMA. Our story may not be over yet, but we are determined that it will have a happy ending. Please join us by sharing our story. Every person we reach brings all binational couples like us closer to our dream of a life together.
Forced to Abandon their Home and Business in Hawaii, Ina and Iva Fight to Defeat DOMA and Return from Exile
Our experience is a little different from the other stories of same-sex bi-national couples affected by DOMA. For one, we’re both originally from Europe. When I was still a teenager I had the dream to one day live in the U.S. While my friends at school were all in love with some rock icon or movie star, I was in love with a country. They drew little hearts in their journals; I drew U.S. flags. Often I went to the travel bureau in my little German village and picked up U.S. brochures, cutting out images and decorating my room with them. I even had a big U.S. flag on my wall. I tried to convince my parents to vacation in the U.S., but it was too far away and expensive. Besides living in the U.S., I also dreamed about living near the ocean. I painted many pictures, all with the same motif—a sandy beach with a palm tree on the left and right and a setting sun in the middle. So it was a very big deal for me when, a few years after my high school graduation, I had saved enough money on my own to afford to finish my Bachelor’s degree in Hawaii. I simply couldn’t believe my luck—in one move, I had accomplished my two lifelong dreams.
For Iva, the story how she came to Hawaii is just as miraculous. She is from Bulgaria, a developing country in Eastern Europe. When Iva told her parents, relatives and friends that she dreamed about moving to Hawaii, they all made fun of her. They didn’t believe that such a move would ever be possible. Long story short, one day she went to an Internet café and by sheer coincidence she met a man in an Internet chat room who happened to live in Hawaii and who was a business owner. His wife worked at a university in Hawaii and they helped her apply to this university to get her Master’s in Computer Science. She even received a partial scholarship. A year after her move to Hawaii and after getting the necessary paperwork done, Iva was able to work part-time at his business. This is where, on Valentine’s Day 2005, we both met. I had just been hired as the new staff writer. We felt the connection between us right away. Neither of us was looking for a relationship, but we nonetheless felt a deep connection, as if our souls had known each other forever.
For a while we were living the dream life. After we both graduated, in addition to our regular day jobs, we started our own internet business in Hawaii’s tourism industry. Then, just when my work permit was about to expire and I would have had to return to Germany, I won in the annual U.S. green card lottery, against odds of about two percent. That was over six years ago, and since then our life has been a constant battle to stay together in Hawaii, the place we love, the place where we built our lives, the place where we built our business. In all these years we never visited our families back home because we knew that it would be next to impossible for Iva to come back to the U.S. on another visa.
The company where Iva worked had told her that they would sponsor her for a work visa, but then they went bankrupt. After that, she worked for another employer, who also promised her to sponsor her. But when the time came, the owner changed his mind because he said he didn’t want to open up his financial and business data to a government agency.
For nine years, Iva worked on renewable permits, and even enrolled at another school so that she could remain in Hawaii. Unfortunately, time ran out for us last fall. Our worst nightmare had come true. In order to stay together, we would have to leave our home, our lives, and our livelihood in Hawaii. We booked seats in the middle section of the plane because we couldn’t bear looking out of the window and seeing the island we called home disappear before our eyes. We still don’t know when and if we’ll be able to visit together anytime soon since Bulgaria is not in the visa waiver program.
The first few weeks were very difficult. Since we didn’t have local jobs or a German credit history, it took us two months after we arrived in Germany until we found a landlord who was willing to rent to us. We felt numb emotionally and cried ourselves to sleep every night. We knew that the only way for both of us to ever move back home in the future would be for me to become a U.S. citizen, in the hopes that, someday, I might be able to sponsor Iva for residency as my wife. We consulted with a U.S. immigration attorney who told us that I should come back as soon as possible to immeidately file the paperwork. So less than twenty-four hours after we had moved into our newly rented apartment, everything still in boxes, I flew back to Hawaii, alone. I returned to Germany in December, so that Iva and I could be together for Christmas, and in January I flew back again to finalize the naturalization process.
During the naturalization ceremony, they played Lee Greenwood “God Bless the USA.” When I heard the lyrics, “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free,” I found myself wishing that I really was free—free to live in this country that I’ve always loved, with the person I love. I was probably the only new U.S. citizen who applied for a U.S. passport and the next thing I did was leave my home, in order to be with my wife.
Now, nine months since our departure from the U.S., we are still having trouble adjusting to our new reality. We haven’t been able to find jobs here. It’s especially hard for Iva since she doesn’t speak the language yet. Every day we hope for a miracle that will allow us to go back to Hawaii. We each did it once before, on our own, under very unlikely circumstances. Now, the circumstances are still daunting, but there is one important difference: we have our love, and we have each other. We are determined to return to Hawaii once again, only this time, it will be for good, and we’ll do it together. We do believe that the fight for equality, the fight to love and live with your spouse, is a fight we can win. Please share our story and consider sharing yours with the The DOMA Project and continue to participate in the movement for social justice so that we not only defeat DOMA but so that we are prepared to reunite all families after this cruel law becomes part of history. Participation and representation is, after all, what American democracy is all about. We are grateful to The DOMA Project for the tremendous effort it has made to help our voices be heard.
Faced with Exile to Canada Unless DOMA is Defeated, Benjamin and Phillip Fight to Live Together in New York
It’s hard to believe that it’s been over three years since my husband and I met and fell in love.
I’m an American citizen and my husband, Phillip, is Canadian. We met while Phillip was visiting our mutual friend, Lisa, who was a classmate of mine in graduate school. I vividly remember the moment that I shook his hand and introduced myself. He was unlike anyone I had met before; honest, sincere, and caring, not to mention that infectious smile!
At the time, we were both in school; I was in Boston, and Phillip was in Montreal. I had the opportunity to visit Montreal with Lisa for her birthday week a few months after Phillip and I had met. During that week, we spent most days together getting to know each other, and finally, he asked me out for a proper date. We spent that day laying on Mont-Royal, enjoying the scenery and talking about our lives. He showed me Montreal and made me fall in love with him even more during dinner one evening overlooking the city under a huge orange moon. I remember feeling so lucky and happy; the future and the struggle we might face as a bi-national couple were irrelevant. We were falling in love. We discussed the distance and decided it would be best for us not to begin anything serious. That lasted for all of two weeks before I again found myself in Montreal.
We continued traveling back and forth between Montreal and Boston over the following year. We even traveled together to Europe, took a cruise to the Bahamas, and spent as much time together as we could. After I graduated we began making decisions about our next step. After much discussion, and because DOMA prevented me from sponsoring him for residency in the United States, we decided it would be best for me to move to Canada and begin the immigration process there.
I moved in the summer of 2011 and began the application process for a Permanent Residence visa with the Quebec government. During the process, I resided in Montreal and commuted back to Boston for my freelance work. This worked well for us for about a year. At the end of that year, my application was (and currently still is) pending. It was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a professional presence in Boston while living in another country. But without a visa, I couldn’t work in Canada.
At this point we began to consider other options. We got married in November of 2012. In January, we traveled to New York and held a small ceremony with our close friends. We felt it was important to both of us to get married in the United States, not only to support a state that had taken the step of equality, but to make a statement in a country that is slowly coming around to accepting our love and commitment.
It was a snowy day, a familiar scene for us back in Montreal, but a beautiful ceremony that neither of us will ever forget.
On our train trip back to Montreal, we had plenty of time to discuss our future and our goals. By the end of the trip, we had decided that since I couldn’t work in Montreal and it didn’t seem as though that would change any time soon, I would move to New York to pursue my career. Phillip would accompany me for the summer, then return to Canada to finish his degree. The move to New York put into sharp focus the barriers and discrimination that DOMA places in front of us.
We were stopped and heavily questioned at the border. The officials suspected that Phillip was moving to New York, and had no intention of leaving. After an hour of feeling like we had done something wrong simply by wanting to spend our summer together as a married couple, Phillip was issued a three-week visa. For several hours after the ordeal we were both silent. We both felt unfairly called out, and the brief prospect of not being able to spend the summer together was unbearable.
Thankfully, with the help of an experienced attorney, we were eventually able to obtain an extension on Phillip’s visitor status that will last until the end of this summer. However, we’ve started to establish ourselves here in New York. We have friends and family here. Ultimately, we’ve built a temporary life together. It’s a life we want to continue building.
Unfortunately, that isn’t an option for us. Since DOMA still prevents me as an American citizen from sponsoring my husband, we will move forward with our plan for me to immigrate to Canada, where my application is still spending with the Quebec government. This is sad for both of us. We both love Canada very much, and under the law there, our marriage is fully recognized as equal. However, I also love my country, and the opportunities that exist here for both of us far exceed what we could hope to accomplish in Canada. We both hope that the Supreme Court will do the right thing and strike down the discriminatory law that prevents us from building a life together in the United States. With the incredible support of our family and friends, as well as countless people we have never met, I know this is possible. The U.S. isn’t perfect, but Americans have always fought for progress against sometimes overwhelming odds. In the end, compassion, understanding, and love will always win out against bigotry and hatred. That, along with everyone’s courageous sharing of stories of struggle and separation gives us hope that the future is brighter, and that things really will get better. We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this movement for social justice and equality with The DOMA Project.
Leaving Cambodia Behind, Ken & Wes Settle Down to Married Life in Florida, Determined to Defeat DOMA
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.
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.
From Serendipity in San Francisco to Exile in Mexico, Ann and Marcia Join in the Fight to End DOMA by Sharing their Story
Marcia: I love the story of how we met! Although I don’t believe in fate, it’s difficult to deny the serendipity of our first meeting. I’d visited the Bay Area in the summer of 2009, seeing old friends who had since moved there. I quickly realized San Francisco was a place I needed to visit for longer than a week. With its vibrant queer and food scenes, San Francisco seemed like an ideal place to spend a summer vacation. By the time I arrived in the summer of 2010, my friends had left or were about to leave the Bay Area, so I was left alone to make new friends. After learning that many people in the Bay Area use OkCupid to meet new people, I started my own profile and began browsing. I saw Ann’s profile and immediately felt through her description that we’d make great friends.
Meanwhile, because I was in culinary school I was lucky enough to snag a meeting with Chef Laurence Jossel of a prominent and trendy, yet source- and freshness-conscious restaurant, NOPA. He took me on a tour of his restaurant and their kitchen, I met the staff, and then we made our way to have lunch at his Mexican food restaurant, Nopalito, just a block away. I immediately locked eyes with Ann, who was our server. This chance meeting would never happen in a city like Mexico City, my hometown. I was so excited to see Ann that I had to ask her where the bathroom was in order to contain myself!
Ann: The summer of 2009 found me at a crossroads of sorts in my life. I had lived in San Francisco for eight years, and although I love the city, I was feeling a bit restless, like I needed a new beginning. After the breakup of a serious relationship a year earlier, I was encouraged to join a dating website and “put myself out there” a little bit. Overall, I was disappointed with the experience—I was still a little too shy even behind the veil of the computer screen to approach anyone that seemed interesting. Marcia’s message was the first e-mail I got through OkCupid that actually caught my attention. I received a message from her, jotted off a quick response, and then rushed off to work a lunch shift waiting tables at Nopalito. Literally, one of the first things that I did when I got to work was tell Marcia where the bathroom was. She gave me this huge grin, and I didn’t realize until she came back to her table and sat down with Laurence that I had just been looking at photos of this beautiful woman not thirty minutes before. I managed to contain myself and not spill anything on her, or my boss—but it was like a scene out of a movie. I felt like I was flying for that entire shift.
When I got home that evening, and finally checked my e-mail, Marcia had written to me again to say that she wasn’t sure that I realized it, but we had met in person that day. I realized it, all right. We arranged to have our first real date a few days later. That first date lasted seven hours.
Marcia: Seven or eight? We were inseparable that whole summer, and we’ve been inseparable ever since. In the beginning, the idea that this might just be a summer romance allowed us to be completely ourselves with each other, with no fear of judgment. But the more we were free to be ourselves, the more we fell in love, and we knew that our goodbye at the end of that summer would merely be a “see you later.” A tough and uncertain “see you later.” Since that summer, we have spent time and money visiting each other back and forth between Mexico City and San Francisco, staying for less time than our visas allow, just to be safe. When we are apart, Skype and text messages help keep us close across the distance. We talk about everything and anything that matters to us. In a way, the distance allows us to get to know each other on a much deeper level—few things happen without us acknowledging them. Communication has been key to the success of our relationship; nothing goes unsaid. It’s been through these conversations, and, of course, through in-person visits showered with “I miss yous” that we’ve realized that we can no longer afford emotionally or financially to live our lives in limbo.
DOMA is the law that stands in the way.
Ann: I am closer to Marcia than I’ve ever been with anyone who’s not in my family. I love her with all my heart. The year-and-a-half that we spent traveling back and forth between countries was stressful and difficult to manage, but I quickly realized that this relationship is the most important thing that I could invest my time and money in. This winter I decided to put my life in the States in limbo—sending a few precious things to my parents’ house in North Carolina, and getting rid of most of my worldly possessions. I knew that since so much of my happiness included Marcia, I couldn’t live apart from her. At the moment, we are living together in Mexico. We couldn’t be happier just to be able to wake up in the same place, together.
But the feeling of my life being on hold—of our life being on hold—remains.
I don’t have a job here, and am a little shy about my language skills. Marcia’s family is incredibly warm and welcoming, but it has been very hard for me to be so far from my family and friends. It gets easier every day, but I still feel like this is not the beginning of a new life, just a break from the old one. I’ve been reluctant to really settle down in Mexico, I’m scared of permanently being lost from all that I have known.
The summer after I met Marcia, I started my own business making belts and other accessories out of recycled fire hose. I’ve had an amazing response to the things I make, and I did several fairs and craft shows while I was still in the Bay Area. Although I’m still selling a few belts online, the business that had been poised to take off has been idling on the runway ever since I was forced to spend a sizeable chunk of my life savings just to be with the one I love.
If and when DOMA is repealed, it will lift an incredible weight off of my heart. Wherever we end up, we will have the freedom to choose our path without this limiting and degrading obstacle in our way.
Marcia: I lived in central New York on a student visa on and off for thirteen years, so I have a strong emotional connection to friends and family in the U.S. Living in Mexico has been difficult for Ann, and while I love my country, I know our lives would be easier emotionally and financially in the U.S. It is very different to consciously make the decision where to live, than it is to be forced to move just because the one you love is of the same sex. But under the current discriminatory law, DOMA, the U.S. Government has taken away our option to determine our own destiny and create the life that we both want.
Living an openly gay life in Mexico has shown me in no uncertain terms the importance of sharing our stories as LGBT people. I come out every day. I have seen my friends in Mexico become a part of the LGBT community as allies, but sometimes, my story provides others with the strength and power to come out too. As our numbers grow, I know that the more we are ourselves, and let other people see, the more strength and power we have as a community. It’s not just about raising awareness anymore, though that is important too; it is calling on our friends and allies to fight with us, for equal human and civil rights.
Ann: This is why it’s so vital for Marcia and I to share our story through The DOMA Project. We want to contribute to greater visibility of gay and lesbian binational families that are discriminated against by DOMA. Genuine equality involves far more than marriage. Marcia and I know that a marriage certificate doesn’t affect, nor define, our love. But it does honor our commitment to one another by making it easier to build a stable life together in the same country. We will continue fighting and sharing our story until we win the right to be together in the U.S.
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My friend Carolyn was the first to point it out. After Sam’s first visit she asked me how it went. I replied, “It was great. So relaxed and fun. Was as if no one was here”. She replied with a big “uh-oh” and laughed slightly. I would not normally say that after hosting someone. I miss my space after a few days and Sam had visited for just over a week. My normal reply would have been, “was great, but nice to have my space to myself again.” When she said, “uh-oh.” It was very clear to me what she was saying and I immediately started to backtrack my thoughts to find a bad moment during his stay. There were none. I was in trouble. That was July 2009. It’s now June 2013.The “I” has become a “we”, and now, we are in really big trouble.
I met Sam via mutual friends online in 2008. Sharing similar interests, we eventually decided after a few weeks to say hello via Skype. From that first visual moment, there was an instant connection. Despite our distance and slight age difference, we connected immediately on a deep, personal level. Our chats wandered between politics, pop culture, technology we shared an interest in, and just everyday tales of life. After a few months, I would start to “have dinner” with Sam while he was working. Sam’s job at the time meant he would work late and that coincided just perfectly with my schedule and time-zone differences. Then the chats became almost daily. I had met and made an incredible friend. I refused to accept the attraction I was feeling towards him because he was not here. We spoke multiple times a day via chat messaging and emails, but mostly video chats. Then one day we did the unthinkable–we discussed his coming here to visit. By that time, he’d become my main confidant, supporter, companion and friend through good and bad times. I wondered what harm could come from meeting him in person? In the end, it was the biggest mistake but best mistake I ever made.
I will never forget the moment I saw Sam at the airport. It was a very hot, mid-day, typical end of July in New York. Seeing him just across the road, I can still tell you exactly what he was wearing, his stance, which shoulder his bag hanging off of, the look on his face as he turned towards me–everything. He was looking a bit nervous and tired. When our gaze met, I knew I was in some seriously big trouble. Every bit of anxiety, all the nerves and worry, all the feelings that come up before meeting someone for the first time vanished in a split second. I didn’t realize how relaxed I was. I knew in a matter of seconds I was about to be able to hold him, finally say a proper hello and thank you, all in a new way and I didn’t seem phased or nervous at all. It was all as it was meant to be. I knew Sam better than any person I had met previously in my life even before having met him in person.
Carolyn had been right. Big “uh-oh” was now at the forefront.
I think it took maybe three days after Sam had gone back home to the UK before we decided to plan his next visit. Within hours of him being home we started up our daily video chats again. His job at the time meant he had a more flexible schedule, so since I didn’t have a long holiday to head to England, he was going to come here again.
A month or so after his second visit, we planned a third visit on Christmas Day in 2009. By this point, we had established a very strong connection. Friends and family were asking about this man I was spending hours with each night. My family was exceptionally curious about this stranger from England who was coming to visit, yet again, and what it meant. At the time, he was still just a friend coming to visit. I suppose they all saw what Sam and I didn’t want to admit. On Christmas Day he arrived and we went by my aunt’s house for a quick hello and something to eat on the way back from the airport. I remember how completely natural it was, as if Sam had been sitting at my relatives’ dining tables for family events and holidays before – the relaxed pace of talking and eating, socializing. Not for a second did it occur or feel to me as if it was his first meeting of my extended family, but there Sam was with us all, for a holiday, no less. That evening we joked that we might as well admit we were dating. Thus, on Christmas day 2009, we officially became a couple and it was clear to everyone that he was a part of our family for the long-haul.
I went to see Sam in England and was able to meet his family that summer. With sweat dripping down my back, literally, we met Sam’s father and his wife and one of Sam’s sisters in London for dinner. Within 15 minutes, Sam’s father was asking Sam to move out of the way so he and I could talk more easily. Now I was in trouble on the other side of the ocean as well.
By this point in our relationship, we also began to acknowledge the big obstacle. We knew I was not able to sponsor him to live with me on a marriage-based visa. We started to investigate options on how we could reside together legally but nothing seemed to work out. I only had one option–ask him to marry me. He said yes, and so we got engaged! The obstacles didn’t go away but we were committed to tackle the obstacles ahead. We travelled back and forth. Sometimes Sam would stay for as long as his visa allowed, other visits were shorter. We knew it was what we needed to do and somehow we would work out the logistics of it all.
My dad was your typical Bronx man who moved to the NYC suburbs. He came from an Italian immigrant family with typical Roman Catholic beliefs. My dad was very frustrated at the situation Sam and I found ourselves in. Coming from an immigrant family, having friends and a wife who were also immigrants, he understood what immigration means to America. He was proud of who I am. It astounded him that I could not live with Sam solely because I was gay. In the spring of 2011, my dad started having some frequent health issues. After a fall brought on by a stroke one evening, he was hospitalized in the ICU. The days stretched out to weeks and then months. The emotional toll my dad’s declining health had on us all was clear. My father’s last moments with us happened while Sam was visiting. My dad awoke for a bit one evening and we all knew that it was our good-bye. He did as well. We all got our chance to say good-bye. The fact that Sam was there, amongst my sisters, mother and brother-in-law said it all. He had found his way into the hearts of my family and they recognized him as a member. My fiancé, accompanying me during what was the most difficult experience I had ever had, gave me the comfort I needed. My dad gave him a hug. I will never forget that sight. My father knew I would not be alone anymore and he wanted to be sure to thank Sam for it.
The last weekend of October of the same year, we had an unexpected snowstorm. It closed down everything for weeks. I was home from school for a few days, and just threw out one afternoon, “maybe we should see if the Justice of the Peace is free next Friday? School is closed and we can get married”. Sounded like a good plan. While we knew the marriage certificate meant nothing to help us find a way to live together, we did know it gave us what we needed–a legal documented recognition of our commitment to each other for life.
Ultimately, we set the date for the following Friday at 11AM. We would have a simple ceremony at my friend’s mother’s house. Because of the size of my family and the short notice, we ultimately decided to tell all our family and friends we were having a “shotgun wedding” (minus the baby) the following day, inviting all to attend that could. We did it so quickly, we hadn’t realized the date: November 11, 2011; nor the time we picked of 11AM. People thought we planned it for that fact. It was purely because it worked for us so Sam’s family was able to watch the ceremony live via webcam. Later on we had the best reception we could have hoped for. While some very close family and friends couldn’t make it given the short notice, we had quite a full house of friends and family.
Even now as a married couple, we still faced nightmares. Legal options we were pursuing were not panning out as we hoped. I didn’t tell Sam what was going on until after he arrived here. I knew going through customs was getting more difficult every time for him due to the questions and accusations. My anxiety grew as I waited for him outside every time he visited. I would think to myself, is he going to be allowed to visit again? It was a good thing I hadn’t told him as when he went through customs, they accused him of not coming to visit, but rather of working here illegally all the time. Though Sam was allowed to enter the country, the customs and border patrol officer told him that if he continued his frequent and prolonged visits, they could ban his return for 10 years. We knew that we needed to get help to find a resolution as quickly as possible.
With help from an immigration attorney, we filed for a green card to demonstrate our opposition to DOMA and to hold the system accountable, but it was denied, as expected. Until that moment, Sam had never violated a visa stay or visa rule. Now, he is here in unlawful status, and that places additional burdens on us as a couple.
But we did not lose our fight, we just began to take it on more intensely.We were fortunate enough to spend a few days in Washington, DC in April lobbying members of Congress for immigration reform. It was a very rewarding experience on many levels. Sam and I realized as we set off on the drive, not only was this the first time we were taking a road-trip together, but since we had been together, this was the first time he and I had ever been away together completely alone and not visiting his family or mine. It was our honeymoon. I don’t know of one couple that can say their honeymoon was necessary, meaningful, or more important and relevant following their marriage the way ours was.
The commitment Sam and I have shown each other is just as strong of any opposite sex married couples. The right to marry and be together is our right. We will settle for no less than being treated with dignity and equality. We hope that by sharing our story we encourage others to fight alongside us until all families are reunited. Join The DOMA Project and help defeat the law that has torn apart so many of our families.