After Ten Years, Lesbian Couple in Delaware is Forced Apart, and Two Sons Are Separated from One of Their Mothers

On January 4, 2012, Jacky and Melody became the first couple in Kent County to enter into a Civil Union and were featured in the local press. Three days later, Jacky was forced to leave the US. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Until recently, I lived with my partner Melody together at our Delaware home. However, were are now forced to live apart after being together for ten years, because we are a bi-national same-sex couple living in a world that seems incapable of accomodating us and treating us equally. Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, Melody is 3,500 miles away from me and there isn’t anything I can do about it – until DOMA is struck down or repealed – unless the U.S. government implements some policy changes to keep our family together.

Melody and I met back in 2002 on line and we hit it off right from the start. We decided to meet in person and proceeded to do a lot of back-and-forth traveling for a while. But as our relationship was developing, we ultimately decided that it would be easier for me to go to the United States to live with Melody. That is where my story begins. I gave up everything I had in the U.K. for Melody. I sold my house, my car, and anything else that I couldn’t bring on the plane. I remember telling myself that it would all be worth it, and of course, it was. I arrived on a student visa, which would allow me to stay with Melody for quite a while, so you could only imagine my excitement.

After arriving in the U.S. our relationship together was blossoming, and we became very close with one another. I knew I was blessed to be able to be living with Melody, and we were even more blessed to be parents. Melody and I are parents to our two young boys: our oldest is 13, and our youngest is 10. At that point things were going wonderfully, and after a few years of living happily as a family, we decided to have a commitment ceremony in August of 2005.

M & J

Unfortunately, a little while after, my sister in the U.K. became extremely ill and suddenly passed away while I was in the United States. That’s when I was needed to come home to attend to my family in the U.K. However, when I made the difficult decision to leave the U.S., Melody and I knew that we were putting everything at risk, that I may not be able to get back.  But, still, I had no choice — I had to leave. Luckily, I was able to come back under the visa waiver program. I tried to renew my student visa, but the cost of further education, after already completing three degrees, was just too much. Due to the poor state of the economy, and the recession, full-time employment in order for me to get a work visa was another no-go. So I was forced to leave after just nine months — I had no other options to stay.

Upon returning to the U.K, I was quickly faced with the reality that I had almost nothing left to return to. I was forced to start from scratch, to find a place to live, to find a job, and all the while my family in Delaware struggled on without me.

I was only able to stay with her for nine wonderful years before I was forced to leave knowing that I might not ever be able to come back. Unfortunately, although we wanted to, we didn’t marry out of fear that it would interfere with my visa status. But now, I regret not marrying Melody during all those years, because it makes it that much harder for either of us to sponsor each other for citizenship in either country should the opportunity arise.

As we try to mend our situation we’ve made some long term plans. We decided that Melody and the boys will come live in the U.K. with me. Melody, an American citizen, will be forced to leave her family and all the things that she knows all because of DOMA. Sadly, we have no idea how much time that will take and until we can be together, Melody has to do everything for our family. Melody is forced to support our family alone, and take on all the roles that I used to do to keep our family functioning and well. On top of all that, she has to sell our house, our belongings, and everything we have worked so hard to build together.

On my last night at our Delaware home I tucked our boys in bed and attempted to say goodnight to them. Our youngest kept telling me that he was tired, but didn’t want to go to sleep because he didn’t want the next day to come — the day I would board the plane to leave him. He kept asking me again and again why I had to leave and it broke my heart to try to explain. All my son could say was that he just couldn’t understand why the government would do this to us, and neither could I.

My two children have been heavily impacted by me leaving. Mel tells me that our youngest son cries at night, begging to be able to see me, and cries when Mel is forced to sell my belongings. Our eldest son can only see a future living in England, and it is all he talks about. Even at their ages, they recognize the unfairness of the situation that we are forced to be in, but we have no choice. There are no other options for us to be reunited as a family, and quite frankly, we never thought it would come to this.

One of our sons had an eye injury in 2009, and sees an optician regularly because of it. A day after his optician’s appointment a few weeks ago he went blind in his left eye. I had to learn of this over the phone: that our son could not see out of his injured eye. I’m 3,500 miles away and I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t hug Melody or my son and reassure everyone that it was going to be okay. I could not be there for them. Luckily, his eye healed and his vision returned. But could you imagine how I felt? I had a son that went blind overnight and I couldn’t be there for him.

There isn’t a day that goes by where I haven’t thought and cried about Melody’s situation back at home and our separation. I am homesick. I feel so helpless, and powerless, and that I should have been able to do something, but my reality revolves around DOMA, the discriminatory law that makes my family separated by 3,500 miles of land and sea and the law that squashed all our hopeful chances to get married in the past. But we aren’t afraid any more. Despite everything that’s happened already, I found myself looking forward to returning for a visit at Christmas. Melody and I planned to enter into a civil union in Delaware after the state’s new law went into effect on January 1. When we arrived at the clerk’s office for the ceremony last Thursday, we were greeted by the media: we didn’t realize that we would be the first same-sex couple to enter into a civil union in Kent County, Delaware!

But what remains so painful for us, as I now board the flight back to the U.K. leaving Melody and my sons behind, is that our relationship is not recognized by the U.S. government. I can be legally married to my spouse, but she cannot petition for me to be her legal spouse in the eyes of the federal government because DOMA. If it weren’t for DOMA, I wouldn’t be living in exiled separation from my partner and children. If it weren’t for DOMA, the tears of my children would not be shed, and if it weren’t for DOMA, I would be in Melody’s arms, and we would be whole family once again.

We urge everyone reading this to join this fight for equality to protect our families. Share your story, show policy makers, friends, family, neighbors and co-workers that we have the same concerns and the same aspirations as all other couples. This is especially true for those of us raising children. We must not let others define us, and we must fight back against laws that destroy our families.

 

 

 

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This is a pro-bono project of the law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC. Posts on this website are offered for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. The law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC has offices in New York and Los Angeles. Our practice is limited to U.S. Immigration & Nationality Law.