On May 12, 2007, I sat in a restaurant in West Hollywood swearing off men forever after a string of bad relationships. That was until my future husband walked in.
My friend James noticed my distraction, took the lonely stranger’s plate and sat him at our table, directly opposite me.
For two hours we ate, drank and laughed. In one meal, I had gone from having lost all interest in dating to hitting it off with a guy who I may as well have designed myself.
Jason was visiting Los Angeles at the end of a 6-week trip across North America. I spent three days showing him the city, before he was due to flew out to New Zealand to continue his travels.
Our whirlwind few days were up and it was time for our first airport goodbye. We both felt a weird difficulty that you just don’t get after hanging out with a stranger for 3 days. We knew it was something special.
For the rest of Jason’s travels, for the rest of that year, and for the 6 years since, we have spoken every day.
As I arrive at my office in LA Jason gets home from work in the UK. We get online and chat right through the day until he has to go to sleep. Sadly, this long distance communication is avoidable and our separation is down to the divisive and immoral Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
President Bill Clinton signed DOMA into law in September 1996. It denies millions of Americans over 1,100 rights, and has kept us and thousands of other same-sex, bi-national couples separated on birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and countless other occasions that we should be sharing together. And that’s all we’re asking for – to be together.
DOMA means that legal gay marriages are not recognized federally and are not enough to bring foreign spouses of gay Americans to the US. Jason isn’t welcome to the US as a Husband and has only ever been able to visit for a maximum 90 days as a tourist.
Jason has been warned for 2 years that he has visited the US too often using tourist visa waivers. It’s currently recommended that he wait 6 months before returning, or he may be denied entry as a visitor.
What most people don’t realize is that when Jason has landed, whether or not he is allowed out of LAX airport is at the discretion of the Customs and Border Protection officer.
The past two years he has been taken aside to a small interview room, interrogated and had his luggage searched by officers suspecting he is lying about his reasons for visiting. They scoff at any explanation of the years of difficulties he’s had obtaining a visa, replying “it’s not that hard”.
This is why the days leading up to his return are always filled with dread. In the run up to his visit, friends and family say, “…you must be so excited! I bet you can’t wait to see him!” which is true. But behind those conversations, all I can think about is the terrifying hour (or 2, or 3) after his plane lands and whether or not he’ll make it past customs and out of the airport.
Thankfully, DOMA and all of this stress could be history by the end of June. The Supreme Court heard arguments against the law on March 27. Our fate is now in the hands of 9 Justices who will decide whether or not to strike down DOMA. We should know on or around June 27. If the court does not strike it down then we have little hope of being able to start a life together in the United States and may be forced to join the many Americans living in exile with their partners across the world.
In a country that has proclaimed since 1776 that ‘all men are created equal’ I feel rejected. I have been put through so much pain, for so long, and I don’t know how many more goodbyes I have in me.
Goodbyes at LAX airport are always the worst, but the silent drive home is a close second. An overwhelming, and avoidable sadness sets in, and knowing it’s not going to go away for months fills my head with bitterness and anger. Fighting these emotions is a constant battle when Jason’s not here. Imagine sharing the most incredible 3 months with your perfect companion, filling every spare hour with fun, only for that person to be ripped from your arms and flown over 5000 miles away from you for an indefinite amount of time.
It was a cruel coincidence that in March, what could be Jason’s last 90-day tourist visa waiver expired on the day the Supreme Court heard arguments against the Defense of Marriage Act. If goodbyes weren’t difficult enough, we had a constant news flow the whole day, reminding us of the pain we were about to endure. And are enduring today.
Before we were married this past September, neither Jason nor I thought we could get any closer. But as I sit here alone writing this, and as Jason sends me the latest version of our ‘goodbye’ video, I realize it put a fight in us. A fight fuelled by having a rooftop wedding in New York that did nothing to help our situation. It’s through the difficult times that we like to remind ourselves that despite it’s cruel intentions, DOMA has only made us even closer.
In the next few days we will find out if Jason’s 3-year H-1B work visa has been approved or denied. We’ve now been separated, waiting for this outcome for over a month. Even if it were approved the visa term wouldn’t begin until October, meaning that whether as a spouse, a tourist or with a work visa, Jason is unable to enter the US for 6 months and with a full time job I can only visit him for a 2 week vacation. We were in the exact same position last year and we just can’t go through that again, and we won’t. It’s not getting easier. Only harder. But no country, no law will stop the two of us from loving each other. And that’s what carries us through.
When we met in that restaurant in 2007 we had no idea that we would spend the rest of our lives together, and apart. We had no idea that there would ever be an issue with Jason moving here and us being together. How naïve were we to believe that two people could fall in love and live their life in peace? When Jason began making plans to move here, it became clear that it was not our decision. And that simply isn’t fair.
It’s time to defeat DOMA.
David and Jason learned days before their 6th year anniversary that Jason’s H-1B work visa petition had been rejected. David and Jason once again spent their anniversary apart, with no way of knowing when they will see each other again. It’s time to repeal DOMA.