Documenting Same-Sex Couples and the Defense of Marriage Act

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Bi-National Couple’s Constant Battle

Today is my first day back to work after a week long vacation in Costa Rica.  What a great experience, except for the fact that I could not experience my first international trip with my husband.  He was born in Venezuela and moved to the United States over ten years ago on a work permit.  Unfortunately, his permit has since expired and he is now here illegally.  I knew that his permit was about over when we first met since he has always been completely honest with me.  I feel completely in love with him regardless, and we were married on October 8th, 2011 in Boston (our home) in front of close friends and family.

Our battle with his status is constant, and often leaves us both feeling frustrated, hopeless and tired.  I had to file my federal taxes as a single man this year. 

Our battle with his status is constant, and often leaves us both feeling frustrated, hopeless and tired.  I had to file my federal taxes as a single man this year.  That infuriated me since I am NOT a single man and my marriage is just as valid as any other.  We contemplated moving to another country that recognizes same-sex marriage, but I do not feel like running from this.  This is my home, and the country that I was born and raised in.  This is the country that I pay taxes to as well.  Ultimately, this is the country that I love and would fight for.

I want to go on vacation with my husband.  We had to put our honeymoon off until this August when we can drive to Provincetown for a week.  Our lawyer suggested that he not even fly domestic since his only current picture ID is his Venezuelan passport.  He can leave the country without issue but he would probably not be able to get back in, essentially making him a hostage here.  I was in Costa Rica when I got the recent news about Prop 8.  I immediately celebrated with my friends and Skyped with my husband that night wishing it was the other way around.  Hopefully by the time I save for another international vacation it will be for two.
-Patrick

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The Long March to Equality
My wife and I got married a year and a half ago with family and friends there to support us. But, because she was in the military and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was not yet repealed, we couldn’t sign up as domestic partners in Washington State. We wanted to have something to sign at our wedding, so, borrowing a tradition from the Jewish faith, we had a friend design a document that incorporated our vows in an artistic way. We then signed it, framed it, and have it hanging in our home as a reminder of our daily love and commitment to each other.

Now that the military has relocated us to California and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been repealed, we are domestic partners. We are waiting for Prop 8 to be overturned so that we can actually sign a marriage certificate. However, even with that paper, we need to wait until the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is repealed at the federal level before the military would even consider giving us the sorts of benefits afforded to heterosexual married couples; benefits like extra dependent pay, health insurance, and access to base facilities. Seems like a lot of waiting…

But we aren’t willing to wait any longer to start our family. With the possibility of my wife being deployed in 2013, we are looking to have a baby through artificial insemination so that she can be here through the pregnancy as well as the birth. We actually tried once last year at home on our own (before DADT was repealed) but it didn’t take. Perhaps it was just as well. We are now in a better position to have a baby that, thanks to our domestic partnership status in California, I believe we can both have our name on the birth certificate. That gives us at least some piece of mind. I am grateful that our recent relocation was the California instead of Florida or Virginia where the laws are even more backwards and harmful for families like ours.

Inseminating is an expensive process, so we saved up to try again this year with the help of a doctor. I have individual insurance that we pay for out of pocket, but it doesn’t cover any of the artificial insemination process. We don’t really have a lot of extra income at this time, which means that we really only have this once chance. Otherwise we will have to wait and save again for after her return home…perhaps even looking into adoption instead.

I know we will raise our family in love, but on this Martin Luther King day 2012, I dream that we will soon be able to raise our family knowing that we are supported by the legal protections afforded to other married couples.

In my vision of my life, I saw lace and flowers. I saw my father walking me down the aisle, as so many little girls do. I saw the love of my life and I exchanging rings and sharing a last name. I saw us starting our life together; working hard to buy a house and provide for a growing family. I have been lucky enough to have all of these things. I just didn’t envision the legal blockades with the sort of impenetrable intolerance that I can’t look in the eye and explain my story to. I did not anticipate this external denial of what I know is true. I am married. I have a loving wife. We hope to have our baby soon. So I feel so odd when I have to answer questionnaires that say are you married or single because it matters if it is a federal document, a state document, and if domestic partnership can be considered marriage or not.

I feel helpless…signing whatever petitions I can online and giving a little money here and there to help…just waiting for those who have the power and influence to change the rules in my favor, in favor of equality. So I thank you for the work you are doing to share your story and the stories of others like you. I know we will raise our family in love, but on this Martin Luther King day 2012, I dream that we will soon be able to raise our family knowing that we are supported by the legal protections afforded to other married couples.

-Danielle Ward

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Journal entry from Michelle and Trae after celebrating their anniversary – September 16, 2011
We decided to get married in the USA, we call it our second home as the American people have always approached us with open arms. I wrote to the Mayor of Washington DC to ‘ask’ if we could get married in the USA even though we were a same-sex couple and Australians! Congratulations on your decision to get married in the District of Columbia.

The Mayor’s office immediately replied with “Congratulations on your decision to get married in the District of Columbia. Ms. Rogers-thank you for writing us about this. How exciting!! I do not think there is any problem with you coming from Australia to do this in Washington, DC and we would be honored to have you here for such an occasion.”

By September 16, 2010 we were legally married in Washington DC. It was a dream, it was our Wedding day, and we were just like any in love heterosexual couple would be, elated and complete.

Then we came home, to Australia.

Trae and I decided to apply for a mortgage and buy our first home together. Taking out a massive loan and buying a home is stressful enough, but consider this, Trae and I made a legal will to protect each other if we should come to harm and leave the other with a mortgage to pay alone. As we are not legally recognized as married in Australia our families can contest the will and be awarded the entire estate.

As we are not legally recognized as married in Australia the life insurance, critical illness insurance, permanent disability insurance we now both have can also be contested? If we did not have a loving, respectful and supportive family what would happen to the other if one of us should die?

In Australia everyone we deal with on a day-to-day basis considers Trae and I married without reservation. Our bank manager, our mortgage broker, our insurance broker, boss, lawyer, friends, family and work associates are all 100% supportive and are quite frankly ‘over the issue’ as we are. Our government however does not agree.
So off we go, Trae and I ‘Love Tank Full’, paintbrush in hand to our new home filled with laughter, respect and oodles of love for each other. One year on and even more in love each day.

- Michelle Rogers and Trae Thomas

Journal Entry from Alex after finding out she can’t be on her child’s birth record – July 12, 2011
I can’t seem to get my head around the news I found out today. I have been with my LEGAL wife through our entire fertility experience. I chose the donor, I picked up the donor sperm, and I held my wife’s hand through each and every doctor appointment. It was OUR decision to raise a family, to raise a beautiful child together, in a house full of love and respect.
I have no words to describe the void in the pit of my stomach and heart as I write this journal entry. – Alex
Today, I discovered that since I am not the one carrying our child due to medical reasons, that I am basically considered NOTHING in the eyes of the Commonwealth of Virginia. I have lived in this state for my entire 32 years of life, and even more so, I’ve never left my zip code.

I am beyond devastated that I live in this state. Why on earth would ANYONE go out of their way to stop loving couples and parents from giving a child a home and a safe environment to be raised within.

This should be a time of joy and absolute excitement, a baby growing and developing each and every day as I hold my wife’s belly every night as we fall asleep. Instead, I am left feeling like an outcast, like a nothing, insignificant and abnormal.

I feel distraught and honestly defeated.

Please tell me how I can teach my child that it is a safe and loving place to be when I can’t even feel proud to hang my own child’s birth certificate because it lists my wife as a single mother and I am nowhere to be found.

How do I explain to my child as it grows up that in our state, I am not your mom, that there are people out there who go out of their way to make sure our family cannot be complete? It makes no sense to me. How will I feel safe bringing my child into this country knowing that it will feel a sense of loss because our family is not recognized in the state’s eyes?

I have no words to describe the void in the pit of my stomach and heart as I write this journal entry.

My parents are both immigrants and now citizens of the US. They never stop saying how America is the GREATEST country on Earth and how amazing it is to be here and all of the opportunity. I have felt that way for most of my life until this moment, where I feel like America and Virginia is making a grave mistake on this issue.”

- Alex Khalaf