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More Than 2,000 Days Trying to “Figure This Out” – Eric and Jon’s Story

9:29 am in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

On June 29, 2006 I boarded a flight to New York’s LaGuardia Airport that would completely change my life. It was not my first trip to New York, but it was my first solotrip. I thought that I may be a little crazy for arranging this trip, but I’m a scientist and a bit of a planner. There is always a Plan B and I will always find a solution.

A few months earlier, several months into my Match.com membership, I had entered a friend’s New York zip code in the search window. One of the very first profiles caught my attention—Asian guy, blue eyes. I have always been drawn to those things that are out of the ordinary. I quickly sent a message, probably something about they eyes, but I don’t really remember.

Later that day, much to my surprise, the blue-eyed Asian boy had replied to my message. We struck up a correspondence that soon moved to video chat – where I learned that the blue-eyed Asian boy looked EXACTLY like his profile!Well, except the eyes…it never occurred to me that people wear colored contacts, but it did not matter.We were finally talking, not just typing, and our first video chat lasted several hours.

Valentine’s Day 2013 marked more than 2,000 days since Jay’s work visa expired and he had to leave the US.

Over the next few months our friendship grew and we began planning a visit. Being a teacher, I had two months vacation, but Jon had just two weeks. We decided to spend a week together in New York at his apartment and I made the flight to LaGuardia. We had agreed to meet at his job, my Plan B being I would go stay with friends if our first meeting in person turned out not to be all that I had anticipated from the months getting to know each other online.

Standing on the sidewalk, in front of Jon’s office building, I nervously dialed his number.I saw a familiar face approach the revolving door, he walked down the steps, gave a big hug, and we had our first kiss. Everything was strangely familiar — we knew a lot about one another from our daily conversations, but had never so much as touched. Nonetheless, I felt as if I had come home after a long trip — my heart felt a great sense of comfort.

The week went by quickly and comfort grew into anxiety as the 4th of July approached—I was going home the following morning. I often wondered how I would know when I fell in love. Although there are many people that I love and care about, what I experienced with Jon was different. Being with him was home. I had found my life partner, and there is no other way to explain it, I simply knew it.

Throwing all caution to the wind, I confessed to Jon that “. . .this may sound completely ridiculous, but I’m falling in love with you.”Thankfully, he did not run! We have been together ever since.

Over the next year and a half we scheduled trips between our respective cities every three weeks.Our daily video sessions grew to include watching TV together, just like my parents have done for the last 40 years. The only difference was that our recliners were in different cities.

One year later, the day before my birthday, I had boarded my flight back to Miami when my phone rang. It was Jon and he was devastated. “I just received a letter and it says that my work visa was not renewed. I have 30 days leave.”

My heart literally sunk.

I quickly shifted into survival mode, calmly responding that we would “figure this out.” That flight to Miami turned out to be infinitely longer than any of my 24+ hour flights to Asia would be over the next several years.

Valentine’s Day 2013 marked the 2033rdday that we have spent trying to “figure this out.” The only thing that stands in our way is a law that does not consider our seven-year commitment equal to my sister’s two- year marriage to her husband.

We are thankful and very fortunate to have two loving and fully supportive families. We have three nephews and a niece that do not know of time when Jon and I were not together. They know that Uncle Eric and Uncle Jon love them and spoil them every chance they get. Our relationship is not odd or unusual to them. What is odd is that we cannot live together—try explaining that to an eight year old! They know that I will be in Asia during the summers and oftentimes we will miss holidays and birthdays while we travel to be with one another.

Well-meaning friends often ask “Why don’t you get married in [New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, Vermont, Washington or Washington DC]?” Few realize that marriage in those states will only resolve a few state issues. Unfortunately, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) exclusively withholds 1,138 federal rights from same-sex couples, including immigration.

We are hopeful that comprehensive immigration reform will include binational LGBT families. Including the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) would simply acknowledge us as a family and provide the means for us to finally live together. The alternative is to live in exile and leave my family, friends, career, and life that I have built over the last 39 years behind.

We ask all our friends, family, colleagues and allies to help us and other same-sex binational couples. Call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121, ask to speak with your senators/representative, and encourage them to include the UAFA as part of comprehensive immigration reform. If it is easier, you can email your senators at http://www.senate.gov and representatives at http://www.house.gov.

Forward this story and the others on the Out4Immigrationblog to your network and ask that they do the same.  

Are you a same-sex binational couple? Do you have families / friends affected by this issue? Please contact us at http://bit.ly/O4ICountMeIn if you are interested in sharing your story.

An Experiment in International Living

8:44 am in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

crossposted at Out4Immigration’s Blog

July 1987, an “Experiment in International Living,” that’s what they called the homestay trip that I took as a 16-year-old girl from the United States. I stayed with my Irish host family who immediately paired me with their 16-year-old niece, Karen. We became fast friends and found it impossible to say goodbye after my three short weeks in Ireland.

Karen and Joy when they first met, as students in Ireland in 1987. Years later they met again and have endured years of complicated visa restrictions to stay together in America.

However, life moves forward and time passes. We kept in touch through snail mail for years, finally reconnecting in person in 2001 when I returned to Ireland for a brief vacation. Karen soon followed me to the U.S. for her own holiday that same year, just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Learning through that horrible event that life can be short, I returned to Ireland for another visit in February 2002 to explore exactly what this relationship was all about. Two full weeks of inseparable bliss; by the time my flight home landed for the layover from Dublin to Shannon I had decided I couldn’t live without her. I moved to Ireland to be with Karen in July 2002.

For a year I tried unsuccessfully to get a job in Ireland, while Karen had been laid off for months. With money running short and a job offer waiting for me in the States we decided to give it a go back in my home country. In September 2003 Karen moved to the U.S. to be with me. Yay! Or so we thought.

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Kathy And Ana: Four Weddings on Two Continents, But Still No Recognition by U.S. Government

2:35 pm in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

Ana and I “met” in 2008 while we were both participating in an online book club. Although Ana is a Portuguese national, she currently resides in the United Kingdom. We quickly became friends in the book club and in November of that year, I was fortunate enough to have a business meeting scheduled in London. It was during that trip that Ana and I met face to face for the first time. Although we considered ourselves to be “just friends” for approximately a year after that first meeting, we never went more than two or three days without corresponding with each other. At first it was only by email, but we were soon spending hours on the phone together learning more and more about each other. We quickly realized that our “friendship” was taking a turn and knew we had to meet again. This time it was in New York, where I live. It was clear to both of us that we were falling in love.

In early 2010, Ana flew over and we spent four beautiful days together. It was then that we just knew we were meant to be together forever.

A romantic moment between the couple
Two years after we first met in the book club, on May 6, 2011, Ana and I celebrated our love for each other in front of more than 100 friends and family with a formal commitment ceremony on Long Island, New York. Then in July 2011, we entered into a legal civil partnership in the United Kingdom, celebrating with Ana’s family, who had flown in from Portugal to be with us on that special day.

When New York’s legislators passed the marriage equality bill in June that year we knew we wanted very much to be married so in August we exchanged wedding vows and became legally married! Finally, in November, I went to the Portuguese consulate in New York City to have our marriage officially recognized in Portugal, one of the 15 countries worldwide with equal marriage laws.

In some sense you might say we have now “married” each other four times and our MARRIAGE is now recognized on two continents. Without question, we have the love and support of our friends and family but not the U.S. government.

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Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) for Same-Sex Binationals Introduced in Congress

12:00 pm in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

Bill with Bipartisan Support Would Give Gay and Lesbian Americans with Foreign Spouses Equal Immigration Rights

Media Contact: Amos Lim, Out4Immigration, 415-742-1626, amos@out4immigration.org

SAN FRANCISCO – FEBRUARY 5, 2013 – The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), legislation that would provide gay and lesbian Americans with foreign partners equal immigration rights, was introduced today in the 113th Congress by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).

This is the seventh consecutive Congress in which Nadler has introduced this legislation, which typically garners support from Democrats, but never enough for the bill to come up for a vote. This time, however, the bill has two Republican cosponsors, and comes at a critical juncture with comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) on the table.

“Thousands of committed same-sex couples are needlessly suffering because of unequal treatment under our immigration laws,” said Nadler, a long-time champion of same-sex binational couples and their families. While many of these couples are legally married or partnered, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) bars them from receiving federal rights, such as the ability of an American citizen to sponsor a foreign spouse for a green card.

Nadler called this current state of excluding one class of people from equal treatment under the law “an outrage”. While the constitutionality of DOMA is currently in front of the Supreme Court, UAFA could neatly fit into immigration reform overhaul and solve a problem that affects about 40,000 couples – some of whom have been forced to leave the country or overstay a visa in order to avoid being forcibly separated by the U.S. government.

Inclusion in CIR, however, is not without controversy. While President Obama has said that same-sex binational couples fall under the category of family in his immigration reform proposal, current Senate framework omits same-sex binational couples. A Senate hearing on the matter is scheduled for February 13.

Some Republicans have clearly voiced opposition. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a member of the so-called “Gang of 8” senators working on CIR legislation, called including same-sex binationals a “social issue” that should not be part of the discussion. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stated that he would not tolerate Republicans looking for excuses like McCain’s to avoid supporting this legislation.

Reintroducing UAFA with bipartisan support bodes well for the House to support an inclusive CIR bill.

Said Nadler, “Any serious legislative proposal for comprehensive immigration reform absolutely must include gay and lesbian couples and their families.”

Out4Immigration, an all-volunteer grassroots group that works with same-sex binational couples and their families to empower those affected by immigration discrimination to speak out, applauded today’s reintroduction of UAFA, its bipartisan support and the commitment of Rep. Nadler to see this bill become law.

“We hear every day from couples whose lives are torn apart because the federal government refuses to recognize their marriage or permanent partnership,” said Amos Lim, Community Outreach Director for Out4Immigration. “Immigration reform cannot be considered ‘comprehensive’ unless all families are included. All families means just that all families – including those that are LGBT.”

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For more information:


Out4Immigration: http://www.out4immigration.org
Uniting American Families Act, LGBT Immigration Reform, Maintains Bipartisan Support in House: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/05/lgbt-immigration-reform_n_2623557.html
Reid Blasts GOP for Blaming Gays on Immigration Bill Resistance: http://www.advocate.com/politics/2013/02/03/watch-reid-blast-gop-blaming-gays-immigration-bill-resistance
Out4Immigration blog (featuring stories of same-sex binationals): http://out4immigration.blogspot.com/
United by Love, Divided by Law (visual protest by same-sex binational couples separated by U.S. immigration laws): http://unitedbylovedividedbylaw.tumblr.com
Count Me In / Same-Sex Binationals Share Their Stories: http://bit.ly/O4ICountMeIn

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Out4Immigration is a national grassroots organization dedicated to raising awareness about the discrimination same-sex binational couples face under current U.S. immigration law and the difficulties they encounter in keeping their families together legally in this country. For more information, visit www.out4immigration.org.

Living in Exile: Tammy and Sally’s Story

11:52 am in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

Early in 2003, I was coming out of an emotionally abusive, 24-year marriage to a man. Searching for support online, I finally found a message board that not only gave me an outlet for healing after this abuse, but also an outlet to explore emerging questions I was having about my sexual orientation. I connected with one of the forum members, Sally, immediately – finding much in common in our pasts, but also finding much in common in the futures we were creating for ourselves. Forum messages progressed to emails and instant messages before we knew it and, over the course of many months, it seemed as though our friendship had grown to much more.

Sally lived in England and I lived in Texas – presenting a logistical challenge that I had never imagined. Later that year, I traveled to England to see if what we felt was a passing friendship or something deeper. We spent five days together that were heaven on earth – before reality came crashing down around us. When she drove me to the airport at the end of those five days, we weren’t sure if we would ever see each other again. I traveled back to Texas and began exploring what steps I would need to take in order for us to be together.

 

I sold my business, got a more flexible job, and we began traveling back and forth between the U.K. and the U.S. We ran up thousands of dollars in phone bills and plane tickets before deciding to get legally married in Canada with the hopes of helping our situation. I proposed to her on a trip to Washington State and we married in Toronto in July 2004. We honeymooned in Mexico and were forced to again go our separate ways, hoping that we would soon be able to be together permanently.

Oh, now naïve we were in those days! We soon learned that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits the government from recognizing our marriage or allowing me to sponsor Sally for immigration purposes. We were grasping at straws at that point, and started to find other couples online who were dealing with similar situations – a bittersweet discovery, to be sure.

We finally realized that the only way for us to live together as a married couple would be for me to move to the U.K. I was ultimately granted a visa under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme and left behind my entire life – including my two daughters, extended family, and friends – to start over. Never in a million years did I think that, in 2012, I would still be living in England.

Eight years ago, I assumed that passage of the Uniting American Families Act would be a sure thing once people saw the injustice of the U.S. immigration system, and that we would soon be able to move back to the U.S. Though I’ve rebuilt my career in England and found a place that accepts me for who I am, the same cannot be said for my home country.

My older daughter has since married and has two beautiful boys – my two grandsons. My younger daughter has struggled financially – I’ve been forced to care for her from across an ocean, tearing my heart apart each day. We’re occasionally able to go back to the U.S. for short visits, but do so rarely because Sally is so fearful of going through immigration after being detained once before. As an American citizen, I’m embarrassed at the way my country treats me, but horrified by how my country treats my wife.

My grandchildren, now 3 ½ and 20 months, only really know me by voice and through the internet. I’m not able to be a proper grandmother to them, nor can I support the rest of my family as I wish. Two years ago, my father committed suicide – because of DOMA, I wasn’t there to support my brother as we grieved our father because my government chooses to discriminate against me.

I’m not there for birthdays, Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas morning deliveries from Santa Claus, Easter egg hunts, or Mother’s Day lunches. I’ll miss my grandsons reveling in their Thanksgiving meal today, and I won’t be able to cook them the secret family sugar cookie recipe. For yet another year, I can’t watch them open the presents I sent for them next month for Christmas. I’ve lost years of those holiday memories and I will never get them back. I have been married to my soul mate for over eight years now, and have been living in exile for seven them. I will continue to miss years of holiday celebrations unless DOMA is repealed or LGBT-inclusive comprehensive immigration reform is passed. I deserve to see my grandsons grow up – I deserve to be equal.

Are you a same sex binational couple?  Do you have families / friends affected by this issue?  Please contact us at http://bit.ly/O4ICountMeIn if you are interested in sharing your story.