Tom & Glen Fall in Love, Get Married and File a Green Card Petition. Help Us Keep Them Together.
Thursday September 24, 2009 was the day our lives changed. On that day I met Glen while on a visit to San Francisco from New York. It was quickly apparent that Glen was from Australia. He, too, was visiting, with every expectation that he would simply return to Australia after having had a relaxing vacation.
I spotted Glen in a bar in SOMA, the name given for the neighborhood south of Market Street in San Francisco. My first impression was a lasting one, to say the least. He was so handsome, with a mixture of silver and black hair, stunning features, and an incredible smile. As I would learn he was a former Mr. Australia. In just three days I would celebrate my 39th birthday, and I thought that I would be happier living out my days a single man. But on that day, in that place, that all changed.
Eventually, we were having a conversation. Surprisingly, he seemed to know more people in the bar than I did; there were a lot of Australians in town. I soon learned that Glen knowing everyone would be a common occurrence. Although I have always been outgoing and gregarious myself, Glen is the friendliest, most sociable person I have ever met. I have never seen anyone so compassionate and so genuinely interested in other people. He kept talking to so many people that night that I started to drift away on the impression that he was not interested, at which point he would reach out and touch me on the arm to make sure I knew that he was. At some point I recall Glen got involved in a conversation, and I decided to call it a night. I had to leave early so I could go to a job interview the next morning, and thought I would never see him again.
I was surprised when Glen called me the next morning and set up a date for that evening. We stayed out all night and well past dawn. The energy was just magical. We became inseparable all weekend, and we bared our souls to one another. I told him of all the most difficult trials in my life: my coming out, being gay bashed, the murder of two close loved ones, and how devastated I was by two past relationships. But I told him all the good stuff too: my spiritual beliefs, how I grew and matured and conquered so many fears and built myself into the person I wanted to be. Three days later, on my birthday, Glen told me that he loved me. I was taken aback. I take a word like “love” very seriously and would never have expected to hear it used so soon, but after some hours of soul searching, I decided that I could say the same to him as well.
The next day I flew back to New York and Glen flew back to Sydney. And for the last 32 months we have done everything in our power to maintain our relationship. As boyfriends, as lovers, and soul mates, nothing can be more difficult than the 10,000 miles that separated us at times.
Glen and I talked to each other on Skype every single day after we met, some times as much as four hours a day. It seemed like the only thing I could think about was that gorgeous, sunny, cheery, sweet, sweet, sweet loving man from Australia. Six unbearable weeks passed before I came to visit him in Australia. The 10 days were among the most magical and meaningful of my life. I was completely swept away with how kind and loving he was toward me; no one had ever treated me that way before. He was just the most beautiful human being I had ever known. We spent several more trips together before deciding it was time to live together, about six months after we had met.
Glen decided to apply to school in New York and come on a student visa and enhance his qualifications, but just before he moved forward with that plan he was offered a job in New York and obtained a temporary work visa. From there, Glen moved from one employer to another. Each time petitions had to be filed and there was some anxiety for us as to whether each would be approved and whether the job would last. Unfortunately, one after another the employment opportunities seemed to fall through just as they were approved by the Immigration Service. Perhaps it was partly bad luck and partly a bad economy. But we struggled to make sure Glen had legal status so we could remain together.
On our first anniversary we traveled to San Francisco to celebrate. I got down on one knee at the very spot we had met and I proposed to Glen. A few days later he was on a plane to London where he would live until we could find a way for him to return to the United States. Of course, unlike a straight couple in that situation, I could not sponsor Glen for a fiancé visa because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA not only prevents the Government from recognizing the marriages of gay and lesbian couples for all federal purposes, but even prohibits use of the fiancé visa process to bring a same-sex fiancé to the U.S. to enter into a marriage with a gay American.
Glen stayed with a fellow we barely knew in London while I handled the administrative work for a job opportunity. Unfortunately, Glen became seriously ill while in London and even though he was covered by my health insurance in the States, that was useless in the U.K. He had to go through a long bureaucratic process of several weeks to finally get treatment for his developing pneumonia at a health facility that was basically for the destitute. I was beside myself with worry not only with his health, but also because it was becoming clear that the latest H-1B employment opportunity we hoped would bring Glen back to the U.S. was falling through. We had all but given up on that visa, when the employer surprised us by signing the forms and filing the petition. These were desperate times, and we clung to every opportunity to be together legally in the United States.
Glen returned to New York and started his new job, but that soon fell apart. The employer was not cooperating, and it was clear Glen would have to find yet another job. Glen is a hard worker. He is the sort of person who can sell ice to Eskimos, and I always assumed that as long as Glen was bringing in the sales money, his employer would do what was necessary under the law to keep Glen around. I was wrong. The employer was abusive and Glen could not take it anymore. I will never forget the day Glen came home in tears, not because his boss had gone into a bizarre inexplicable fit of rage and not because he would lose his job. He was in tears because he was afraid of being forced to leave the United States and not be with me.
However, it soon looked like things were finally going our way. Glen quickly got another job and it seemed to hold real promise. But this promise soon turned to misery as well. Glen was now traveling almost full time, and he was completely unhappy. The working conditions were just terrible, and the firm was within a few months of going bankrupt. The point of the job was so we could stay together, and yet we were always apart. After months and months, we gave up. This job too would not be the answer for us.
Because it is so difficult for us to find a way for Glen to stay legally in this country, we know that the only alternative would be for me, as the main bread-winner, to give up the career that I have worked so assiduously to build for years, and move abroad. That most likely means I would be unemployed, either in the UK or Australia. Thankfully, we were able to remain here until my father passed away. Glen and I did not have to abandon my mother and sister while they tried to manage my father’s Alzheimer’s. At least the haters that claim to be “protecting marriage” had not forced us to leave the land of my birth and deprive a World War II veteran of the support he needed from his son once he became unable to care for himself.
Moving out of the country would not only impact us. I have several employees and pay a hefty amount in federal, state and city income taxes each year. I have a master’s degree and served the country as a diplomat for the U.S. Treasury Department for many years. I support my family and my community and my family wants me here with them. I have ancestors who arrived on the Mayflower and have relatives who fought in every war in our nation’s history to protect this nation’s freedom. It is simply beyond me how any compassionate nation, or any nation with a good sense of its own self-interest, would think it is beneficial to drive me into exile because I am gay and refuse to let go of the man I love.
When all the hopes we had for Glen’s employment visa appeared to have been lost, we decided to move forward with our plans to marry. We also made the important decision to not leave the United States without fighting to be treated equally. We decided to file a green card petition for Glen on the basis of our marriage and we will fight for it to be held in abeyance and then ultimately approved once DOMA is repealed by Congress or struck down by the Supreme Court.
We married in January and submitted an application for permanent residence (a “green card”) for Glen shortly after. We are planning a big wedding celebration in September for our family and friends, and we are hoping that the green card application is put on hold so that Glen will be able to continue to stay in the United States in lawful status. Our hope now is that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service will delay the processing of our green card petition while the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” makes its way to the Supreme Court, or is repealed by Congress. In just the last year, a number of federal courts have ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional, a finding that would allow Glen to be treated just like another spouse of an American and let him receive permanent residency. If Immigration Service will wait to receive clarity from the courts, then we can delay the day that I make the devastating decision with regards to my career and my family. That policy decision ultimately rests with President Obama, and despite his strong words of support for marriage equality in May, there are still steps to be taken to protect couples like Glen and me.
We need the Obama administration to stop denying green card petitions filed by married gay binational couples immediately.
We want a resolution for the same reason all other married couples would want to avoid being in this limbo: we want to begin to build a stable future together. With some stability we could then think about buying a home and making choices in our lives that we have had to constantly put off, not knowing what would happen to us in a few months’ time. The years of debilitating uncertainly have worn us down. We did finally decide to get a puppy together, something we had wanted to do for years but had postponed because we did not know if we would be able to stay in our home in New York. There is only one thing in my life that gives me certainty now, and that is the knowledge that Glen and I will remain together. No law, no hate, no immigration authority, no threat of unemployment, and no poverty will ever separate us. Only death, only upon death will we finally part.
We will keep fighting until the Obama administration does the right thing. This is just the beginning and we know we are not alone. We join with tens of thousands of lesbian and gay binational couples who need the protection and security that an “abeyance” policy would offer.
And we can’t wait.
We need it now.