The DOMA Project: Discriminatory law means tearful goodbyes for binational couple.
Thousands await possible law change on or before June 27
On May 12, 2007, I sat in a restaurant in West Hollywood, Los Angeles completely unaware that my future Husband was sat at a table just a few metres away.
I had originally walked past the restaurant but decided I would eat there when I noticed a rainbow flag and lots of men eating together. For a young closeted gay man, it was like finding a pot of gold at the end of my six-week trip across America. A haven, 6,000 miles away from home where I could sit and eat a burger and look at guys without worrying about who noticed.
That must have been the longest I'd ever taken to eat a burger and fries. Then just as I thought about heading back to the hostel on Melrose Avenue, a man walked over to my table, said I looked lonely and that his friend would like me join them for a drink before I left. "Come on, just one drink!" he said. I acted shy and said I should really be leaving, but my huge grin did little to disguise my excitement and he took my plate and walked away! I picked up my stuff and joined them, taking my seat opposite David Castro.
We hit it off instantly; talking about concerts I'd seen on my trip, our future plans and my life-consuming secret sexuality- something gay people of all ages have usually dealt with in at least one chapter of their lives.
In one meal, I went from being so far in the closet I deserved a walk-on part in the Narnia movies, to meeting a man who instantly convinced me that losing my inhibitions and being myself was the only way to change the attitudes of those around me. For that epiphany alone, David was a huge inspiration.
He spent the next three days giving me the ultimate tour of Hollywood and the surrounding areas, including famous sites painted by our mutual British favourite David Hockney. Then it was time for me to continue my travels to New Zealand, and 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 three days. We knew it was something special.
For the rest of my travels, for the rest of that year, and for the six years since, we have spoken every day. As I get home from work in the UK, David arrives at his office in LA. We get online and chat right through the day until I have to go to sleep.
Sadly, this long distance communication is avoidable and our separation is down to America's divisive and immoral Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
President Bill Clinton signed DOMA into law in September 1996. It denies millions of gay Americans over 1,100 rights, one of which is the right to bring a foreign spouse to the US. This barrier has kept us and thousands of other same-sex, bi-national couples separated on birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, illnesses, funerals, and countless other occasions that we should be sharing together.
DOMA means that legal gay marriages are not recognized federally. I'm not welcome to the US as David's spouse and have only ever been able to visit for a maximum 90 days as a tourist. I've been warned for two years that I have visited the US too much using tourist visa waivers and it's currently recommended that I wait six months before returning, or I may be denied entry as a visitor. I have never broken any rules; I have simply spent so much time there, following my heart, that I have run smack into a system that is heartless.
Throughout April and May, David and I waited on the edge of our seats for the outcome of my H-1B work visa petition. We were told days before our 6th anniversary that the immigration service had received twice the number of visa petitions than they allocate, and that mine and thousands of others were not selected for review. So with no chance of me entering America with a work or tourist visa, we're focusing our efforts on the defeat of DOMA.
Read more below:
Our fate is now in the hands of nine Justices who will decide whether or not to strike down DOMA. We should know the outcome on or around 27 June. While we may not be able to directly impact the decisions of the nine people directing our fate, this is the perfect time to spotlight this discriminatory law for those who have no idea it exists. Getting our stories in front of people who wouldn't usually think twice about gay rights is the key to changing attitudes towards gay people here in the UK and in the US. And this law doesn't just affect millions of Americans. This is a human rights issue affecting thousands of people from around the world. When any of our fellow human beings are treated unfairly, it should enrage us all.
When David and I 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 me moving to LA and us being together. How naïve were we to believe that two people could fall in love and live their life in peace? After I graduated Photography and began making plans to move to LA, it became clear that that move was not our decision. And that simply isn't fair.
Why not move to the UK? We would love to... one day, when we believe that it is the right choice for our future- when it is financially realistic and at an appropriate time in both our careers. But to be forced into that now would only create further problems and cause more unbearable stress. Aside from the obvious huge impact on our daily lives, neither of us could be truly happy being pushed out of a country that offers us everything we love, by a declining few who are happy to take it all away from us. Our personal battle would be lost and we'd be left to shout from the back of the bus. Change occurs when those who are treated unfairly stand up for themselves and don't allow others to control their lives.
We should not be forced to leave because of an American law that treats David and I, and Edie Windsor and her late wife, Thea, and millions of others, like nothing but strangers to each other. David and many Americans decades before him, should not be forced into exile by laws he has no choice paying to enforce.
It's time to defeat DOMA.
Missing Husband posters and more are viewable at The DOMA Street Art Project
Read David's post at The DOMA Project
Thank you to everybody at The DOMA Project, and all involved in the fight for equal rights.