Stories – from other sites

Jackie (US) and Gloria (Pakistan)

Posted on September 13, 2012. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Like many young newlyweds, Gloria and Jackie*, both 24, enjoy spending a lot of time together. They eat breakfast together every morning before Jackie goes to work at one of her three jobs. They text each other throughout the day and steal away together when Jackie is free between jobs. On days off Gloria and Jackie do the grocery shopping and the laundry together, or head to the beach in their North Shore community.

“We complete each other’s sentences; often we’re thinking the same thing at the same time. We’re just really soul mates,” says Gloria. “And it’s just hard to keep us apart.”

Despite their strong and loving bond – not to mention their marriage – there is one thing that could certainly keep them apart: the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Gloria is a Pakistani national and because DOMA prevents federal recognition of their marriage, Jackie is unable to sponsor Gloria for U.S. citizenship, as other Americans can do for their foreign-born spouses.

Gloria came to the U.S. on a student visa to attend college in Massachusetts.  She and Jackie met there and fell in love. Assigned as roommates, there was an instant connection on the day they moved into their dorm room, back in 2008.

“We stayed up all night, and we just started talking about our relationships, and our families, and all these things,” recalls Jackie, a Massachusetts native. “We’re kind of private people so for us to just start talking right away, it was crazy. We had a lot of things in common even though we were from two different countries.”

Among Gloria and Jackie’s common interests was the desire to be involved with their college community; both were members of the Student Government Association. They also share an interest in helping others, which led them as students to participate in a mission trip to Trinidad. Gloria helped refurbish a church in a poverty-stricken community and Jackie worked with people with HIV/AIDS, who are outcasts in Trinidad.

They became inseparable. When Gloria confessed to Jackie that she was leaving school after their freshman year because of financial problems, Jackie agreed to move with her to Texas, where Gloria’s parents had moved from Pakistan. Over the course of living with Gloria’s parents for a year, the couple realized they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together.

Gloria and Jackie also realized that they eventually wanted to get married – which they could not do in Texas. “We kind of packed up a car and just headed back up to Massachusetts and started our life from a car pretty much,” says Jackie. “We just keep going because we have just strong love for each other.”

Gloria and Jackie exchanged wedding vows in an intimate ceremony – just the two of them and their officiant – in a picturesque little gazebo on the North Shore on October 23, 2011.
While they try to maintain a normal life and routine, DOMA complicates their domestic life. Because they cannot afford the expensive tuition costs that foreign students must pay to attend school in the States, Gloria’s student visa has expired. She cannot work because she has no green card, hence Jackie’s three jobs—as a hotel concierge, a restaurant server and leading programs for elders at an independent assisted living facility. Despite DOMA, they have applied for Gloria to get a marriage-based green card and are hoping Jackie’s petition for her wife will at least be put on hold, enabling Gloria to stay with Jackie in the United States for the time being.

Their experience led them to become involved with Stop the Deportations, Separations and Exile – The DOMA Project, a campaign to raise awareness of, and bring an end to, DOMA’s discrimination against bi-national same-sex couples. They have been sharing their story with the news media and elsewhere with an eye toward educating people about the negative impact DOMA has on their lives.

They try not to contemplate how life would be were Gloria deported to Pakistan.

“I can’t imagine,” says Gloria. “I was nineteen when I met Jackie so all the adult life that I’ve had has been with Jackie. I don’t even know how I would function without her. I can’t imagine it, but most likely, if I end up going, I would probably face big time discrimination for being Christian and gay and a woman. So I mean, I would probably be harmed there, I feel like. I can definitely not be out there as a lesbian.”

It’s easier imagining how they’d feel if DOMA was struck down in the courts or overturned legislatively.

“It would be a huge relief,” Gloria says. “I think we would have the biggest celebration of our life. We talk about it often and Jackie always says she would cry with happiness. We’d be just really, really happy and relieved and excited for life. I think that would make us go on with our life how everyone does and how we’re supposed to. I think we can have more of a normal 24- or 25-year-old life, which we are not having now.”

*The couple asked that their last names and other identifying information be withheld out of concern for their personal situation and for the safety of Gloria’s extended family in Pakistan.

This story is located at: http://www.glad.org/doma/stories/no-normal-life-for-newlyweds-living-under-domas-threat/

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Mark Morgan (South Africa) & Jaime Singson (U.S.)

Posted on July 22, 2011. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , , , |

Sunday (July 27, 2011) will be bittersweet

By Miranda Leitsinger

Mark Morgan, a 32-year-old South African, has found a way to stay in the country to be with his partner, Jaime Singson, a 34-year-old New Yorker whom he met in 2007: going to school. He is now on his second master’s degree, jokingly noting that the money he spends is akin to some couples who would pay thousands of dollars on a wedding.

The couple is ready to wed but faces a conundrum: Getting hitched would highlight Morgan’s intent to stay in the U.S. after his visa ends in 2013 — even though they would also need such documentation to prove their commitment is legitimate.

Mark Morgan, 32, and his partner, Jaime Singson, 34, would like to wed but are holding off since it could affect Morgan’s ability to
stay in the country after his visa expires. The South African is thrilled for gay couples who can wed in his adopted home of New York, but just wishes he could do the same.

“We’re definitely ready, but we’re not going to take that step, mainly because … that’s even a bigger flag for me to be put on a watch list once my visa expires,” he said. “So that’s something we’re not going to do until DOMA gets repealed or deemed unconstitutional.”

Since it would be difficult for him to get work with a student visa and juggle his studies, the situation puts a financial stress on the relationship. The couple could return to South Africa, where Morgan was a strategic logistics manager and same-sex marriage is legal.

His family tries to “convince me to come back home and not put myself through this here,” Morgan said. But the couple’s life is in New York: “We want to make our home here.”

Morgan and Singson celebrated when New York state lawmakers approved gay marriage on June 24, but Sunday, when the law takes effect, will be bittersweet.

“We are going to be watching with pride and joy all of these couples getting married,” Morgan said. “But at the same time, it’s that yearning for wanting to be in their situation, but knowing we cannot be. We cannot take that step and be that bold and just get married.”

For other couples, the fragility of their legal relationship has them living day to day. Cristina Ojeda‘s wife, Argentinean Monica Alcota, 36, was removed from a bus in New York two years ago by authorities who said she overstayed her visa. She was detained for three months.

Cristina Ojeda, left, and Monica Alcota, right, wed in Connecticut in 2010. Though their marriage is recognized in New York, where they now live, Alcota, an Argentinian, is facing possible deportation. “She was in this horrible, horrible place,” said Ojeda, 25. “I couldn’t touch her, like hug her or anything. Everything was through a glass. She was in jail pretty much.”

It took months for the couple, who live in Queens, to recover from that experience — and from not knowing if Alcota could be taken away again. They got married in Connecticut last year, but they have another court date in December to review Alcota’s deportation case.

“A heterosexual couple, they can choose … where they want to live … but in our case we can’t,” said Ojeda, a social worker. “They’re just basically giving us the option of separating or just leaving the country and leaving everything that I have here, my career, my family.”

This story is located at:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43848013/ns/us_news-life/#

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Ashley Abraham-Hughes (U.S.) & Corinne (Britian)

Posted on July 22, 2011. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , |

Written By Miranda Leitsinger

For some gay couples, fight goes on to marry — and
stay in the US –
For binational gay couples, New
York’s same-sex marriage law doesn’t help

While many gay couples in New York tie the knot on Sunday, when same-sex marriage  becomes legal in the state, Ashley Abraham-Hughes and her wife, Corinne, will  be watching the festivities from the other side of the Atlantic.

That’s because since U.S. federal law still does not recognize same-sex marriage, and  since Corinne is British, the couple was forced to move to Britain, where their union — they wed in Connecticut in 2009 — is legal.

“While I do still love the U.S. and I always will, I am very resentful of the fact that I was effectively forced to become an expat,” said Abraham-Hughes, a 27-year-old who grew up in Pittsford in western New York and now lives in Manchester. “It’s absolutely ridiculous, and I just think the thinking on this whole issue is completely wrong.”

The couple’s plight is one likely facing many of the estimated 36,000 binational gay couples in the U.S., where the foreign partner in the relationship can face deportation and a 10-year ban from returning to America if they don’t already have or find a legal way to stay in the country.

The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, enacted by Congress in 1996, blocks federal recognition of same-sex marriage, thereby denying various benefits given to heterosexual couples — such as the right to immigrate. Thirty-seven states have defense of marriage acts, while six states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage, according to the National Conference of
State Legislatures.

(California has also ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, but the state currently does not allow them to be performed because Proposition 8, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, was passed six months after the initial ruling. A judge then ruled the Proposition 8 amendment as being unconstitutional, and that ruling is now under appeal.)

“There are little more than 100,000 same-sex couples who are lawfully married in the United States. As to the federal government, they are complete strangers to each other,” said Lavi Soloway, a lawyer who has worked in this area since 1993 and is a cofounder of Immigration Equality.

So for couples in which one partner is not American, state-level approvals of same-sex marriage do little to change their mmigration status. Some of those who have overstayed their visas have been deported, though in recent months a number of couples have won reprieves from judges who have indicated they are waiting to see how the law regarding these kinds of cases may evolve, Soloway said.

“It (DOMA) was a pre-emptive rollback of civil rights that is unique in our history,” he said. “In the case of immigration, it has its cruelest manifestation because it means that somebody’s husband or wife is going to be deported only because they are gay.”

Calls to the Justice Department seeking comment on the DOMA same-sex marriage cases were not immediately returned. An official of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said the agency would continue to enforce the existing law.

But in a significant shift, President Barack Obama — who supports repealing DOMA — has given his backing to the proposed Respect for Marriage Act, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday.

“I can tell you that the president has long called for a legislative repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which continues to have a real impact on the lives of real people — our families, friends and neighbors,” Carney said. “He is proud to support the Respect for Marriage Act … which would take DOMA off the books once and for all. This legislation would uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections as straight couples.”

But in the current legal reality, some same-sex binational couples are going into exile, plunking down a lot of money to remain in the U.S. or fighting deportation.

This story is located at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43848013/ns/us_news-life/#

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Waleska (Germany) and Fabienne (US)

Posted on June 13, 2011. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , |

I want to start by saying this is probably one of the worst and best times in my life.

Last time I told you we were trying to figure out what to do to renew
Fabienne’s visa so she can stay longer. We decided to take another road-trip to
Canada. This time to Cranbrook. I asked Fabienne when was the day her visa
expired. She told me the date without looking at her passport. I asked her
again, Are you sure? and she said yes. So we plan the trip for a day before her
visa expired. We put our things in the car, and Dude’s (my dog) and left. It
was a beautiful day and we were having fun driving. For some weird reason I was
very confident that everything was going to be ok like the last time.

We were at the Canadian border. They asked us for our passports. We waited
anxiously in the car. The officer comes back and says: we can’t let you go to
Canada because her visa is one day late and we are not sure if the USA will let
her go back. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I told them we thought her
visa expired the day after. They told us to park the car and to come inside. So
we go inside and she showed us the date in the visa and yes, we were late for a
few hours. I looked at Fabienne. I proceeded to try to persuade the Canadian
border officer to let us go in Canada, I knew if we were sent to USA part there
might be trouble. But she said: I can’t let you go in Canada, you need to go
back to the USA and talk to the border officer and make sure the paperwork is
correct then you can come back. So we get in the car. I looked at Fabienne and
asked her: why you told me that we were one day early? she said she got
confused by the date since they read dates differently than in the USA. I told
her that was a big mistake and that I wish I would have looked at her visa. I
also told her, don’t worry they probably just let us go because we are late
just for hours. Inside of me I knew we were screwed but I was trying to calm
her down cause I know she gets really nervous. Her fate was in hands of the
Border Patrol officer. I was hoping we would get a good one but that was not
the case.

So we are now in the line for the US border. They asked us for our passports
and the reason why we were there. I told them that the Canadian side sent us
back to make sure she can come back to the USA. They noticed her visa was late.
The officer asked us to wait that he needed to talk to someone about it. He
came back and said: please park your car and come inside. Then the interrogation
began. I have never seen Fabienne so nervous. They asked her all kinds of
questions. Why was she trying to go to Canada? Why she was in the USA? Where
was staying at? What is her relationship with me? How is she supporting
herself? Was she trying to go to Canada to renew her US visa? Does she have a
plane ticket back to Germany? etc… They asked me a few questions as well.
There were three officers. 2 of them were not so hardcore but there was one
just trying to get any possible reason to deport Fabienne. First I thought it
was completely unfair that they did not provide her with a translator. They
were asking her all these technical questions that she had no idea what it
meant. Then they took her to a separate room and asked me to wait outside. I
knew this was bad. They asked me to search my car. I told them my dog is inside
and they said just bring your dog with you. So I did. They searched everything
and then left a huge mess for me to put back together. Fabienne was still
inside and I had no access to her. Hours passed and passed and passed. almost 5
or 6 hours later an officer came outside and told me that she could not prove
she had plane tickets to go back to Germany and that she was going to get
deported. I started crying like a little girl. I could not belive this was
happening. This was the worst that could happen…and it was happening. They
told me all kinds of lies. They said the same thing happened to another German
person a few weeks ago and he was back in the USA. They told me not to worry
but they had to do this and that she was going to be able to come back. I have
never had any kind of experience with this kind of situation. I had no idea
what to do.

Finally around 8 or 9 hours later they said I could see her before they will transfer
her to a jail. I asked why they are taking her to a jail. She is not a criminal
i said. They told me that was procedure and they did not have special place for
people getting deported. I started crying even more. They told me to wait
outside until they bring her out. He also told me that she was going to be
wearing handcuffs and leg cuffs while in the cop car as procedure but that they
knew she was not a criminal. I was in shock. I could not believe they were
doing this to her. They told me I could say goodbye to her and that I could
visit her in the jail which was going to be in Kalispell. I asked them how long
were they going to keep her in jail. They said that just a few days until they
get the plane tickets and all the procedure done. So they bring her outside and
let her smoke a cigarette with me while we say goodbye. I told her I would go
visit her and do everything I can to help her. She was very scared. We were
both crying. In fact i am crying right now just remembering this horrible time
in our life. I could not believe my country was doing this to her. I found out
how unfair and broken our immigration system is the hard way and so did she.
Please take a look for the rest of our story on my blog, Bi-cultural love and
immigration laws
on Squidoo. (photo; personal; Waleska and Fabienne;
“Fabienne and me in Germany”)

This story is
located at: http://imeq.us/our_stories/stories.html

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Susan (US) and Antien (Holland)

Posted on June 13, 2011. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , , |

I moved to Amsterdam in 1998 from New York City to be with Antien, my partner now for nine
years and the love of my life. Excuse me for gushing right off the bat, but
true love is hard to find, and sharing my life with her renews, delights and
amazes me.

I met Antien on December 31, 1989 at a New
Year’s Eve party in Brooklyn, New York. Our hosts invited the assembled guests
to express themselves on the occasion of the demise of the 1980s. Cast your
mind back – we’d just been through eight years of ketchup as a vegetable. It
was a decade when image triumphed over substance again and again, and most of
us were relieved to bid it adieu. Antien’s contribution was a modern dance
improvisation. She had recently graduated from the Rotterdam Dance Academy and
was in New York to study in the Merce Cunningham studio. She moved that evening
with a dramatic, theatrical intensity that riveted me to my seat. I couldn’t
take my eyes off her. She was so “out there” that it almost hurt to
watch. I was a complete dance novice then, and I wasn’t sure what she intended
to say about the 1980s, but whatever it was, it got my attention!

I think I loved her from the moment I laid
eyes on her, but we were friends for a period of years before I acknowledged to
myself – and to her – that I was in love. I bared my heart to her in 1993, and
we have never looked back.

By that time, of course, Antien had returned
to her native Holland. I knew I was in love, but could I actually uproot myself
to move to a new land in mid-life? Could I leave my friends, my community, my
professional life? I wasn’t sure, and so Antien and I conducted a long-distance
relationship between New York and Amsterdam for five years. [No one has ever
called me impulsive.] Fortunately, her work as a dance teacher gave her the
summers off, and my employers in a small consulting firm in New York were
sensitive to my situation. Still, for five years, we never spent more than two
consecutive months together, and probably saw each other for no more than four
months out of every year. Missing her was one of the keenest, sharpest pains I
have ever felt.

When we were together, we fantasized about
what it would be like to share a daily life, to wake up in the same bed, to
tell each other our stories at the end of the day. Just being together – what
so many couples take for granted – seemed almost unimaginable. When we parted
at Schiphol or JFK, we cried our eyes out. When we were reunited, it was
sweeter than sweet. We had a spirited, old-fashioned pen and paper
correspondence. We spent a fortune on plane tickets and phone calls.

After five years of travelling back and
forth, I decided I was ready to move to Amsterdam, a city I had grown to love.
I had lived in New York for 11 years, and I felt ready to trade in that crazy
human carnival for a city on a more human scale. I was certainly ready to be
with Antien, but being ready didn’t make it any less wrenching to leave my home
and my friends. I sorted, packed and divested. I gave up my apartment and all
of my furniture. I gave away my appliances, my television, even my desk. I gave
away hundreds of books, and put hundreds more into storage. I found homes for
my two cats. I arranged to work freelance via the Internet for my company in
New York. I borrowed a friend’s car and made a ten-day road trip to Boston and
western Massachusetts, my two other previous homes in adulthood, to say those
good-byes.

The opportunity to start “anew” in
mid-life was a gift for me. I arrived in Amsterdam when I was nearly 40, and I felt
that I was starting fresh: free, unburdened, eyes wide open. Like the first day
of school.

My life in Amsterdam is rich and growing,
and I am grateful for it. I love riding a bicycle everywhere. I love living in
a city that is just so damned cute. Getting acquainted with a new culture is
endlessly fascinating (and occasionally vexing). Making new friends reminds me
that everyday of our lives is a new act of creation. The language…now that has
been a struggle. Learning Dutch has been completely humbling, particularly for
a perfectionistic verbal person like me. I don’t know if I’ll ever achieve my
goal of speaking with effortless mastery, but I now speak with reasonable
competence. And I’m learning to let that be good enough, for now. Making a
second language my own has been, in many ways, like all good process projects,
its own reward.

But I also gave up much to be here. When
people ask me what I miss most, I joke and say half-and-half in my coffee. I do
miss half-and-half, but of course I miss people the most. Sometimes I ache for
the friends who have known me 15, 20, even 25 years. That kind of intimacy,
that kind of deep knowing, is irreplaceable. I see family in California at most
once a year, my nieces and nephews are growing half a world away, and that is
also a loss. I spend considerable time and resources every year travelling back
to the US to maintain my relationships and connections there.

I don’t know if Antien and I would choose to
live in the United States now if we could – Dubya is making this a particularly
easy time for me, personally, to be an expatriate – but the point is, we don’t
have the choice. The Netherlands recognizes our relationship and welcomes me as
her partner, and in the United States our commitment to each other has no standing.

Even my closest friends and family regard my
decision to move here as a choice, which in a way, of course, it was. I think
of it as a choice, too. No one held a gun to my head. But it was not an
entirely free choice. I think of it as a compelled choice. If I wanted to have
a daily life with Antien, it was the only choice I had. Does one option
constitute a choice? The longer I am here, the more it sinks in: I may call
Amsterdam home for the rest of my life because my own country doesn’t, can’t,
won’t see me.

– Susan

Susan posted this story at the following
URL: http://loveexiles.org/Susan_story.htm

 

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Ibaa (Iraq) and Haider (Iraq) – Asylum in UK

Posted on March 31, 2011. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , , |

By PinkNews.co.uk • September 20, 2007

Ibaa, 30, and Haider, 29, were initially refused asylum by the Home Office.

Two gay men from Iraq persecuted because of their sexuality have been granted asylum in the UK following an appeal.

Fleeing from militia death squads, which have been targeting the LGBT community in their home country, Ibaa, 30, and Haider, 29, were initially refused asylum by the Home Office on the grounds that fear of persecution because of sexual orientation was not recognized by the 1951 Refugee Convention.

The two men received help from gay rights organization OutRage! and the exiled LGBT Iraq group, who collaborated with the men’s solicitors Barry O’Leary and Sara Changkee to get the decision overturned.

Haidar, who is a qualified medical doctor, said:
“To show my gratitude to this country for giving me protection, which I did not get in my own country, I will be a good citizen and make a positive contribution to society by serving my patients well and helping in the local community.”

OutRage! has been working with the exiled LGBT Iraq group to address the persecution that many homosexuals in Iraq face since the country was thrown into a state of civil war. 

Peter Tatchell, a founder member of OutRage!, was delighted by the victory.

“Ibaa’s and Haider’s successful appeals show that gay people who have suffered persecution can win asylum, despite all the obstacles placed in their way by the Home Office.

“We worked with Ali Hili of the Iraqi LGBT group and with the men’s solicitors, Barry O’Leary and Sara Changkee.

“Our joint efforts secured this positive outcome. I hope it will encourage more gay and lesbian Iraqis to challenge Home Office refusals and win their appeals.

“It is very depressing to think that without a huge support network and lots of hard work to get corroborating evidence from Iraq, both these men would have probably lost their appeals and been deported.

“The whole asylum system is rigged and biased against genuine refugees – especially gay ones. It is designed to fail as many applicants as possible, in order to meet the government target to cut asylum numbers,” said Mr Tatchell.

 This story is located at: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news/articles/2005-5509.html

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Anonymous (Lebanese)

Posted on January 6, 2011. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , |

‘Gay’ Lebanese man refused Australian visa

by PinkNews.co.uk Staff Writer
8 November 2010, 5:22pm

The man was denied a protection visa because authorities did not think he was gay

A Lebanese Muslim man was refused a protection visa in Australia because authorities did not believe he was gay.

The man, who cannot be named, says he is gay but became engaged to an Australian woman to escape his abusive father, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

He said he had two secret gay relationships in Lebanon but his father beat him when he found out.

On a visit to Australia in 2007, he said he became engaged to a woman he met through his uncle and applied to the Department of Immigration for a prospective spouse visa.

Eight days later, he told the department that he had broken off the engagement because his boyfriend in Lebanon was upset.

The man admitted that he had only become engaged to the woman to obtain a visa.

He told the Refugee Review Tribunal that he was desperate to escape his father and had been persecuted for being gay in his home country.

However, the tribunal did not believe he was gay or that he had been persecuted. Its findings were upheld by the federal Magistrates Court in Sydney.

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Tim Coco (USA) and Genesio Junior Oliveira (Brazil) – Update Nov 2010

Posted on January 6, 2011. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , |

Article: Gay married couple may be split up after US deportation order

by PinkNews.co.uk Staff Writer
9 November 2010, 6:33pm

 The couple fear they will be split up

A Brazillian man and his American husband may be split up after the US attorney-general refused to reverse an immigration order.

Genesio Oliveira, 31, is married to Tim Coco, 49, of Massachusetts, but Mr Oliveira believes he may be sent back to Brazil within six months, the Canadian Press reports.

Mr Oliveira was denied asylum after claiming he was raped as a teenager. A judge ruled that he had a genuine fear of returning to his home country but was not physically harmed by the attack.

In June, Mr Oliveira was allowed back in the US on humanitarian grounds after an intervention by US senator John Kerry.

The couple believed that attorney-general Eric Holder would reverse the original decision, allowing him to stay in the country on the basis of his marriage or as an asylum seeker.

However, Mr Holder has refused to reverse the decision.

The couple are now looking over their options, which include re-applying for asylum, suing the government of the Defence of Marriage Act (which bars federal recognition of gay marriage) or asking lawmakers to pass a federal bill allowing Mr Oliveira to stay in the US.

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Anonymous (Britain) and Anonymous (US)

Posted on October 20, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , , , , |

 I was required to visit America under the ‘Visa Waiver Program’ for no more than 90 days at a time, under the guise that I was simply entering for a vacation. This made a stressful and expensive relationship. While I was forced to quit my job in Britain to spend time in the States, I could not work, drive, own a cell phone or even a bank account in America – all the things most people take for granted. My partner was powerless to do anything to help.

Fortunately Britain is more equality-minded and I was able to sponsor my American partner after we could prove that we’d been together two years. This was extremely difficult, as the American way of life does not facilitate gay relationships to even help with the paper work.

By the end of 2005 Britain will drop the two-year waiting-period on gay relationships, and civil partnerships will be an option for bi-national gay couples to remain together.

America is severely lagging behind the rest of the western world. While Canada, Netherlands and Spain forge ahead with gay marriages, many other countries have civil partnerships and are opening up their laws to allow for equal rights for gay partners.

Meanwhile when visiting America for a two-week vacation last week, I was refused entry in Atlanta. I was searched, detained, fingerprinted, photographed, had my passport marked, and returned on the next flight back to the United Kingdom at a personal cost to me of $5,000.00.

After all the stress and financial burden we have been through with travel expenses and only one of us working, it seems that Homeland Security simply didn’t believe that we had actually managed to stay together legally as a couple for over three years. Therefore they cancelled my vacation under suspicion I was working in America.

The experience was extremely distressing. To add to this, two US Federal Marshals visited my American partner the following day. He was taped and interviewed and forced to provide his banking and employment information. Since then his mobile phone displays “ALERT” when he places a telephone call. The next day he received a letter from the IRS advising that his tax records are being audited for the previous ten years. What a coincidence!

The American government has singled out gay couples for mistreatment. We have been careful to abide by every law and hurdle placed in front of us and we are still being treated as criminals.

We have now decided to pay off my partner’s house in America and sell it for a tidy profit. My partner has wiped out his fairly substantial retirement investments and transferred the money into Britain where he’s happy to invest it.

The American government has lost my partner’s college education knowledge, personal business and future tax dollars. It has completely missed out on all the benefits I could have provided a community.

In the meantime, Homeland Security runs a green-card lottery for the world, including Islamic countries and the Middle East – and Osama Bin Laden is on the loose four years after 9/11.

My partner and I are happily settled in the UK. Our country treats us as a real family. We hold hands in the street and we speak to government departments on each other’s behalf. My partner has free healthcare and we have merged bank accounts, bills, rent, tax, etc. Most importantly we are together safe and happy.

We are not the only American bi-national couple that is suffering at the hands of the current laws in the United States. While America likes to send out a happy message that it is a beacon of freedom, the reality is that this message is old and rusty. American law is actually full of persecution and hate. Other countries in the world truly honor freedom for their people. America needs to update and amend its laws to match its rhetoric and stop treating its own citizens like prisoners in their country.

My partner is American, and loves his country. He misses his family and friends there. It’s time that Americans stop hating each other’s lifestyles and start treating their fellow citizens with true equality. I believe this needs to start at the top, where we pray for equal governmental laws for gay and straight people alike. Maybe then love and equality will eventually filter down to ordinary people on the street.

– Anonymous UK citizen in London, England

Information posted at: http://loveexiles.org/UK_US_story.htm

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Jen (US) and Loz (UK)

Posted on June 19, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , , , |

“Let me die, die trying; if I fall, at least my heart will have been true. Let me die, die trying; I can cry tomorrow if I do.”

Kristen Hall intertwines the necessary optimism and ever-lingering pessimism same-sex bi-national couples suffer in these two lines from one of my favourites of her insightfully written songs. When I listen to her velvety voice wrapping itself around these words, I feel the bristle of pain and anger that springs from a relationship started with pure joy and naïveté. Like many who are partnered with a same-sex foreigner, I often find myself teetering between tossing in the towel and jumping full force into the uncertainty of starting over, propelled equally by love and desperation.

I’m not over-dramatising—I’m a girl in love with a girl who just happens to come from another country, my country’s greatest ally—the United Kingdom. The more liberal UK, old-world as it may seem to some BBC-watching, spirit of ’76 Americans, has at least got some respect for love in its many forms. They realize that the world doesn’t revolve around heterosexuality, however much our current administration would like us to think it does. Their government acknowledges that its worldly citizens fall in love with foreigners, dirty as the word has become in our own country, and give them legal immigration options.

The UK passed immigration law for its citizens to sponsor unmarried partners in 1997, including same-sex couples in this group. “Under this concession a couple must show that they have been living together for four years or more and intend to continue to live together permanently. Once admitted they will have to show that the relationship has subsisted for a further year before being granted settlement”, stated the Immigration Minister, Mike O’Brien. In 1999 this was improved by lessening the prerequisite length of relationship proof to two years.

My country has let me down. Though a bill called the Permanent Partners Immigration Act (PPIA) was introduced to the House of Representatives on the 14th February, 2000— (how appropriate)— by congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), it has yet to garner enough support to come up for vote. This simple, but life-altering legislation would add “permanent partner” behind “spouse” in our INA (Immigration and Nationality Act) text. It is similar to ones introduced and passed in 16 (yes, sixteen!) other countries across the world, from Canada and the United Kingdom to Norway, South Africa and Israel to name a few.

Though it doesn’t guarantee gay and lesbian Americans in bi-national relationships any more rights than other homosexuals, who’ve fallen in love with other Americans, the PPIA needs to pass. I want to spend more than three months at a time with my partner, to wake up beside her every morning instead of having to call or email to find out how her last several days have gone. It would be nice for us bi-nats to settle into a routine without the constant knowledge that we have nothing allowing us to embark upon the journey of our own ‘American dreams’.

As testament to our patriotism, many of us have truly given America every chance—we’ve put our lives on hold, emptied our pockets and racked up credit card debts buying multiple flights for our partners, hoping and praying that this time we’d find a way to stay. In Loz and mine’s case, we’d find that elusive employer who’d sponsor her for a work visa, because I can’t sponsor her, we can’t afford to send her back to university, and her country hasn’t necessitated her fleeing and needing to seek asylum. Oh, and we didn’t have a million dollars to start a business, because America does welcome wealthy capitalists.

Even those who do manage to use one of these means to keep their partner in the country are faced with that expiration date looming over their heads like a stay of execution. People graduate or run out of money to study further, lay-offs happen and, not surprisingly, other countries are improving their laws respective to the LGBT community, causing some to have to reconsider their asylum status. America isn’t a safe long-term investment for same-sex bi-national couples; we have to consider our sanity and stability.

Americans are being forced out—exiled from our own country to be with the ones we love. Jet-lagging, disillusioned, financially and emotionally scarred, we are arriving at the doorsteps of democracies which actually practice what they preach. We are Love Exiles—a group started by a couple in the Netherlands, Martha and Lin McDevitt-Pugh—and we are pissed off! Chapters are springing up in other countries, where our relationship is recognized and our numbers are ever-increasing.

George Bush would probably get that annoying smirk on his face, when told of all the gays leaving America. He may even be mumbling ‘good riddance’ under his breath, but I’m not going to let him have the last word. It’s inhumane and cruel what America does to its own citizens: families are ripped asunder, communities torn apart, employers are losing talent and experience, and we are being denied are right to pursue happiness in our own country. Our lack of rights is leaving holes in the poorly stitched fabric of our democracy.

It is a duplicitous loss—we are lost to our family, friends, co-workers and community, and they are lost to us. Though we gain the right to both live and work in the same country, Loz and I lose dozens of friends, the nearness and dearness of my family, our three cats, most of our stuff through sale or storage, my credit history, my car, my right to unemployment and welfare should I need them, and my rung on the employment ladder. Our commitment is tested by these challenges and stresses; the mettle of our relationship forged in fires of federal fundamentalism.

We are forced to go, and must prove worthy of the UK “permanent partner sponsorship” visa by putting together our file of proof and documentation of at least two years of dating, living together and financial inter-dependence. We present for an immigration office’s scrutiny: our personal emails and letters, dated photos, letters of support from friends and family, apartment leases bearing both our names, medical bills, credit cards, my life insurance plan listing Loz as beneficiary—all proving the existence of our relationship and our ‘commitment’ to each other.

As well as giving someone your most personal documents to peruse, you also pay a whopping fee, now $520, for the consideration they give to your application. Hopefully you also get the sticker, bearing those words UNITED KINGDOM, ENTRY CLEARANCE and next to Type: TO JOIN PARTNER. It’s not the most romantic way to start a new life together—a stranger weighing our hopes and dreams in his hands, taking copies of what they deem most evidentiary. It’s scary and certainly stress-inducing, but I have to admit that we are lucky to have even this option, unlike many couples, for which options are scarcer.

If all goes to plan, then later this year, after my lucky brother’s wedding in October, “I’ll be crossing the Atlantic without charts…following my compass in the dark,” as another Kristen Hall song aptly puts it. I’ll be leaving America to enrich my life in a freer society, ashamed of my own country’s inability to see love beyond borders, without limits or prejudices—to give my relationship a fighting chance. As I head for London on that plane, cleared for entry as an acknowledged same-sex partner, I’ll happily be singing along to Kristen: “…my sails are ragged, but my sights are set on the comfort of a more forgiving shore and a life that’s more worth living for”.

This story is located at: http://loveexiles.org/jenn_story.htm

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