The story of Lisa and Diane came to my inbox, courtesy of Lavi Soloway at Stop The Deportations. These are the kinds of stories that break my heart.
Lisa, an English woman tells the story of crossing paths with Diane, a woman from Massachusetts, USA via the internet, while home recovering from surgery in November 2001. They developed a quick affinity, chatting frequently on instant messaging and by email.
By spring 2002, they'd arranged a cautious and awkward meeting when Diane crossed the Atlantic to visit England. Lisa writes:
I was a bit shy that day. Still, I knew within an hour of meeting Diana face-to-face after all the months of chatting, that she was someone I wanted in my life, someone I could love. I spent the week showing her the sites. Diana met my parents and my pets and came to see me at a performance with my dancing school. After her week-long visit she had to leave. Parting was heartbreaking for me. I knew I wanted to be with her and we agreed that we were now together as a couple. I was so scared when she left. What if I never saw her again?
But she did. She visited Diane in Massachusetts.
And so it continued for us with more visits over the years, never able to find a way to live in the same country but becoming more and more attached to each other.
In October 2005 we were married in Massachusetts. Of couse, like so many thousands of other same-sex couples despite being legally married we are still not considered married by the federal government. Still, it was a most beautiful, memorable and incredible wedding. We were married at Hammond Castle in Gloucester, Massachusetts. My parents both flew in from England and were present for the ceremony and the celebration. Diana's Mom and her stepmother were there. Diana's Dad and her grandmother knew of our plans to marry and were excited and happy for us; sadly, both passed way months before the date of the wedding. Of course, Diana was very upset that they couldn't be there because they were so excited to see their only child and only grandchild get married. But we pressed on.
On the brighter side, we had around 100 people as guests. It was mostly Diana's friends and co-workers, but they all supported and loved what we had together. Everyone told us that they had a great time, but every single one of them expressed the fact that they hate what we are going through, the struggle just to be together. They are all good people and just want to see us together in peace like any other married couple.
Unfortunately, same-sex couples that marry in states like Massachusetts and New Hampshire that allow it, are afforded none of the rights to petition to DHS on behalf of their families that heterosexual married couples are. That's because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act blinds the Federal Government to any recognition of LGBT families.
Immigration attorneys, in fact, generally advise against same-sex couples taking this move. A heterosexual couple marrying is seen as a symbol of their love and afforded respect that the law should endeavor to accommodate their desire to stay together. Not so with gay couples. In the eyes of the DHS it is seen as a evidence of intent to overstay any temporary tourist, work or education visas that may be the only route for a non-citizen LGB partner to reside in the States. To our government, tangible evidence of our love elicits not assistance, but rather suspicion on potential immigrants. Immigration law, like DADT, in this way functions like a legislative version of the closet. Same-sex families like Lisa and Diane's best hope to remain intact is to be willing to hide their real intent: to remain intact indefinitely.
Lisa shares more of her story at Stop The Deportations. She discusses the heartbreaking passing of Diane's mother. Lisa and her mother were visiting Diane at the time. She tells of helping Diane arrange the funeral and how it illustrated the importance of having family near during crisis. It was fortunate for Diane that she had Lisa and Lisa's mom there at that time to love and support her. It is unfortunate their time together is so limited.
They are continuing to brainstorm paths they might find to being together. Unfortunately, for couples like this, options are few. Remedies include passing the Uniting American Families Act, and/or repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. As onerous as it is, it's something that must get done. Most of our allies have managed to address this inequity. I think America can too.
If you or someone you know would like to share your story of same-sex immigration discrimination, you can contact Stop The Deportations here. From the website:
We are actively looking for binational couples to join this campaign. Your testimonials, videos, photographs, etc. will help us put discrimination into terms that everyone can understand: its cruel impact on individual couples and families. Anyone interested in getting involved to help raise awareness of the impact of DOMA on binational couples should contact us here. All information received will be confidential. Couples who want to participate without revealing their full names or other identifying information are welcome. Binational couples who are currently in separate countries and binational couples living abroad are also welcome.
For more information including tools to contact your representative, see also Immigration Equality.