Showdown with DOMA: Mark & Fred Meet With USCIS and Fight for Their Family at Green Card Interview in Philadelphia
After 22 Years Together, Married Gay Couple With Four Adopted
Children Fights For Their Marriage And Their Family
In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Mark Himes & Frédéric Deloizy
Are on the Front Lines of The Fight Against DOMA
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Inquiries to attorney, Lavi Soloway , Masliah & Soloway, PC
Founder, Stop The Deportations – The DOMA Project
January 10, 2012 – NEW YORK, NEW YORK
When she wakes up on Wednesday, January 11, Claire, 8, will have a lot more to consider than the earrings she is wearing for school. Her ears were pierced as a Christmas present: a gift, she told her dad, that she had been waiting for her whole life. The Christmas tree is still up in her home, but the presents under it have all been unwrapped, and emptied, naturally. Her three brothers, John, Jacob, and Joshua, ages six through eleven, received a small arsenal of toys that have been played with and are already causing mayhem, posing tripping hazards in the hallway until Papa will offer to buy the toys back and tuck them away for safe-keeping or risk further neglect. On the surface, everything is as it should be. But John, Claire, Jacob, and Joshua are ordinary kids under extraordinary circumstances.
On January 11th, Daddy and Papa will appear before a Philadelphia Immigration Officer for a “Green Card” interview to put forward evidence of their 22-year relationship and their marriage. The goal? To be allowed to stay together with their children in this country. For a married gay couple in which one spouse is foriegn, the process of applying for permanent resident status is not straightforward. Frederick Deloizy is a French national, and, as a foreigner who has seen both his work visa and his student visa expire, the time he has left to share with his family may now be limited.
Frédéric Deloizy and Mark Himes, a US citizen were wed in California in 2008, 18 years after they first met. They represent a growing number of same-sex couples with a partner of foreign nationality at risk of separation because immigration officials are barred from recognizing their marriage under the federal Defense of Marriage Act. By contrast, any bi-national opposite-sex couple in their position would never face a future as uncertain. Despite the hurdles they face, Fred and Mark decided that they must fight for the green card based on their marriage. To do less, would be to accept the discrimination that has put their family in such a precarious position.
But theirs is a story not only about the federal government’s lack of recognition of same-sex marriage, but the legal limbo that it creates for same-sex bi-national couples with children. In two decades together, they have adopted four beautiful children, now ranging in age from six to eleven. A patchwork of incoherent legislation means that while they are recognized legally as same-sex adoptive parents in Pennsylvania, the federal govenrment refuses to recognize their marriage. They welcomed their two oldest children, John and Claire, just days after their respective birthdays in 2000 and 2003. On their 19th anniversary in April 2009, Fred and Mark welcomed Jacob and Joshua, both four years old at the time. All four of the kids would have remained wards of the state, dependent on government coffers, shuffled from one foster home to the next, if Mark and Fred had not provided a loving, stable home. Instead, they now have a Daddy and a Papa, and siblings, toys they may take for granted, and a loving home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania that may soon be torn apart.
Their interview comes just one week after the Iowa caucuses and the day after the New Hampshire primary in the backdrop of an election season where candidates jostling for position to become the Republican presidential nominee have fallen over each other to convince audiences that they are the most opposed to marriages of same-sex couples. And they are fully aware that Pennsylvania’s former Senator, Rick Santorum, is the most vitriolic. Last week, he promised that if elected he would annul all same-sex marriages. In this weekend’s candiate debates, Santorum and his fellow Republican candidates made clear that they are equally opposed to adoption by same-sex couples. Mark and Fred see this as an attack on their family. It is hard to ignore the hypocrisy of this rhetoric, as it comes from individuals who are supposedly espousing the primacy of family values. Children deserve to have a loving home and loving parents. The four children in this loving home may yet see their family ripped apart, one of their parents exiled abroad because of the Defense of Marriage Act. The law is poorly named, because it defends no one’s marriage, but threatens to destroy this one. Laws in both the U.S. and France create significant challenges to this couple of nearly 22 years. While France recognizes same-sex relationships as civil unions and may allow Mark to immigrate there, France does not recognize same-sex adoption and consequently, does not acknowledge that they are both legal parents of their children for immigration (or any other) purpose.
Mark and Fred have put their efforts over the past few years into staying in the United States, building their home, and putting down their roots. As they await a decision on whether 2012 will be the year their family is torn apart they have decided to take the fight to their elected officials and to the President, himself a son of a binational couple. At best, the administrative agency could choose to do what Mark and Fred consider “the right thing” and place their case into abeyance until litigation concerning the constitutionality of DOMA makes its way to the Supreme Court. At worst, Fred may be placed into deportation proceedings, their nightmare scenario. Meanwhile, the family is in a state of limbo, and it pains them as parents when they can’t answer their children with certainty about the future. They can only preparing themselves, mentally and emotionally, to fight for full equality under the law.
See full post here.
STOP THE DEPORTATIONS, SEPARATIONS AND EXILE – THE DOMA PROJECT, a campaign co-founded by attorney, Lavi Soloway in July 2010 along with his law partner, Noemi Masliah, has contributed to the trend of recent victories for lesbian and gay couples who are faced with deportation, separation or exile because of the Defense of Marriage Act. For nearly two decades, Soloway has been the most prominent attorney and advocate on LGBT immigration law and policy in the United States. He has worked exclusively in this field since co-founding the non-profit organization, Immigration Equality, in 1993.
22 Years After They First Met, Gay Dads and Their Four Children Fight DOMA To Keep Their Family Together
We are Mark and Frédéric.
After more than 20 years, four children, and three houses, we are still unsure of our future.
Like any other parents in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where we live, we spend our days taking care of our family, making sure that our children are loved, happy, healthy and are learning the skills and values that will give them the most opportunities for a successful and fulfilling life.
And yet, as much as we have devoted our lives to our family and to each other, we do not enjoy what most families in America take for granted. Despite being legally married, and having become the parents of four wonderful children, our family can be torn apart at any time by my own government because of the Defense of Marriage Act and because of outdated immigration laws.
We are Mark, Frédéric, John, Claire, Jacob and Joshua.
Fred and I met in April of 1990 at a birthday party for a mutual friend. As I learned later, neither one of us wanted to attend the part on that particular night, but, somehow, we both were talked into it. I arrived with my friend Rebecca at the same time that Fred arrived with his friend, Steve. As we approached the entrance, Fred said hello to me in his thick French accent. I often joke saying that “he had me at allo.” He held the door open for me that night.
After that, we spent most of the rest of the evening on the floor in the hallway simply talking about our lives. I found out that he had been in the country for the past year teaching at a university a couple hours away. By midnight, his crew was heading out. As we were saying goodbye, I leaned in and gently kissed him. I don’t know what possessed me to do that. He looked shocked. After he left, I asked the host if Fred was gay, since almost everyone at the party was straight. The host responded “yes” and told me that Fred was planning on going into the priesthood. That didn’t stop me from reaching out to him. I tracked him down at his university and sent him a card. We were able to meet again a few times before he went back to France two months later. And so began unbearable seven years of flying back and forth across the ocean as often as we could.
In 1997, Frédéric was hired at a local high school to teach French. We were finally together in the same country again, and we were both elated. In 1999, we stumbled across a house in Harrisburg that was condemned and boarded up. I fell in love with it. I had to convince Fred to buy it. We paid $1.00 for it and spent the next several months bringing it back to life. It was a labor of love. We literally built a home for ourselves. Ten years after we first met we were settling down and ready to start a family.
In April of 2000, we submitted our application to an adoption agency. They called us six days later to let us know that a boy was just born and asked if we would be interested. Nervously, we said yes. Our son, John, was born on April 20th, 2000. In July 2003, we were blessed again by the birth of our daughter, Claire.
In 2004, with Fred’s work visa due to expire after he reached the limit of six years, he and his employer reached out to an immigration lawyer only to learn that they had acted too late to be eligible for any extension. We began to face the prospect, that we would be forced to leave the United States and move to France. It was very difficult for me to think of leaving my parents and my sister with severe MS, but we could not allow our children to be separated from one of their parents. Our highest priority was keeping our family together. So thinking that we were moving to France, we advertised the house for sale. We had a buyer within a couple of days. With only a few months to go, Fred was able to obtain a student visa to attend our local college. But it was too late to save the house. We moved into a rental. During this time, we experienced what so many gay binational couples come to feel: a growing sense of frustration with the blatant discrimination that prevents gay American citizens from sponsoring their partners, even when they are legally married. We were featured in the documentary, Through Thick and Thin, which profiled the experiences of a diverse group of binational couples. We felt then, as we do now, that we must stand up for our rights. We could not live on this roller coaster, without any way to plan a secure future for our family, and just sit on our hands and do nothing.
Also during that time, we found another condemned house and started renovations on that. We completed the renovations and moved into that in 2005. By 2007, with two kids in private school and Fred unable to work because of his status as a foreign student, money was running low. We decided that, once again, we had no choice but to sell the house into which we literally had poured our blood, sweat and tears. It was heartbreaking to lose our home. We sold the house quickly and purchased a much smaller house in a less expensive neighborhood so that we could keep going for as long as possible on one salary.
In 2008, we married in San Francisco, 18 years after we had first met. A French film crew came with us, and we became part of a film on gay life in America: This is Family.
On April 7, 2009, our 19th anniversary, we met our youngest sons, Jacob and Joshua who were four at that time. They easily blended into our family and overnight, we went from two children to four. We were a growing family, full of love and optimism about our future in every respect but one. A ticking clock grew ever louder, as we knew that Fred’s student visa would eventually come to an end.
In the spring and summer of 2011, we were forced again to weigh our options. Now the proud (and sometimes exhausted) parents of four children, we were forced to look for a way to remain together in this country or else leave. We started to seriously consider moving to France. However, we quickly learned, that despite some advances in French law over the years, we were trapped. We could not stay in the United States (my country) and we could not move to France (Fred’s country). We are unwanted by both. Although we are both the legal parents of four American children, and both the state and federal government recognizes our status as parents, it will not recognize our marriage because of the Defense of Marriage Act. According to the U.S. government, I am the father of our four children, and Fred is the father of the same four children, but we are legal strangers to each other. Our marriage, our nearly 22 years together, all of that amounts to nothing. Fred has no right to stay in the United States beyond the expiration date of his visa. And that day was rapidly approaching. At the same time, while France would recognize our relationship under its less-than-optimal Civil Solidarity Pact (“PACS”), and it may even permit me to reside in France legally as an immigrant on the basis of our relationship (but not our marriage), the French government refuses to recognize the adoption of our children, because under French law same-sex couples are prohibited from adopting children. We are trapped by U.S. law that refuses to see our marriage, and French law that refuses to see our children. We cannot continue to live this way, and we cannot be torn apart. .. so we decided to fight back.
Over the past years, we have built our entire lives in the U.S. All of our family and friends are here. Our children should not be put through the trauma of seeing one of their parents forced out of the country, nor should we be uprooted and turned into refugees searching for a third country that will take us in. It is an outrage that my own government has created this situation and allows it to persist, when it has the power to solve the problem both in the short-term with interim policy changes, and in the long-run by defeating DOMA. We are thankful that this administration is fighting DOMA in court alongside lesbian and gay couples. Those cases will hopefully bring an end one day to that law and its cruel, unnecessary impact. But we need the administration to help all LGBT families like ours today by putting in place policies that protect us.
This past summer we decided to join The DOMA Project and fight for full equality for our family. After many discussions with our lawyer, we decided that I would file a “green card” petition on behalf of Fred, as my spouse. We have done this because we cannot continue to exist from one visa to another, we cannot put our children through the stress, and we cannot allow the status quo, in which our future is so unstable, to continue. We believe that we must set an example for our children by living our lives in a way that assumes we are all equal.
On Wednesday, January 11, 2012, Fred and I will go to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Philadelphia to be interviewed in connection with the marriage-based immigration petition I filed last summer. We will go into that interview expecting to be treated equally. A USCIS officer will ask us about our marriage, review our evidence of cohabitation and commingled finances, and proof that that we have a marital relationship. We have dutifully compiled a pile of documents and photographs for review. We welcome the opportunity to be treated just like everyone else: to prove that our marriage is real. While we look forward to the interview, we have no illusions of what we are up against. We will prove that we are, in every way, qualified for Fred to receive a green card, but he will still be denied. And that is where the next stage of our fight will begin.
We have notified our elected officials and we will continue to fight for our case to be approved or, at the very least, held in abeyance, and not denied. We are painfully aware of the Obama administration’s position that DOMA, despite being unconstitutional, must be enforced. We know that President Obama believes that DOMA prevents the Immigration Service from “recognizing” our marriage. Even so, there is no reason that our marriage cannot be respected and our family protected. We need bold leadership to create remedies that keep all families together. Our four children, John, Claire, Jacob and Joshua, deserve no less.
Mark Himes blogs about his family at Our Simple Lives…A Daddy, a Papa and their four children.
Victory for Monica & Cristina! Government Closes Deportation Case Against Married Lesbian Couple in New York
Immigration & Customs Enforcement Closes Deportation Case Against Argentinean Lesbian, Monica Alcota, Based on Ties to Community Including Marriage to her Spouse, Cristina Ojeda
First Case of a Married Gay Couple Closed Since New DHS’ November 17 Announcement That “Working Group” Would Begin to Implement Prosecutorial Guidelines Nationwide
For the first time since the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) November 17 announcement that a national “working group” had begun reviewing all cases currently pending in immigration courts, Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) has closed a deportation case involving a married same-sex couple.
Although the latest DHS “prosecutorial discretion” guidance still did not explicitly include LGBT families, advocates at Stop the Deportations say that the decision by ICE demonstrates that existing criteria can be properly applied to keep married gay and lesbian couples safe from deportation.
Immigration Judge Terry Bain granted a Joint Motion to Administratively Close Removal Proceedings against Argentinean born lesbian, Monica Alcota, because “good cause has been established.” Judge Bain’s decision was dated November 30, and was received yesterday, just one day before Monica Alcota was due back in court for a final deportation hearing. Monica Alcota’s lawyer, Lavi Soloway, submitted the request for Administrative Closure to ICE Chief Counsel in Manhattan on November 14. The request was based on her marriage to her U.S. citizen spouse, Cristina Ojeda; her deep roots in the community in which she lives and works; her activism against DOMA; and the absence of any adverse factors, i.e. that Monica Alcota is a hard-working, law-abiding person who is not a danger to the public safety or national security.
For most lesbian and gay Americans with foreign-born spouses the only obstacle to a “green card” is the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act,” (DOMA) the law that prevents the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of lesbian and gay couples.
The “DOMA deportation” that threatened to tear apart Monica Alcota and Cristina Ojeda, a married lesbian binational couple who live in Queens, New York was stopped after ICE attorneys agreed to Alcota’s request and submitted a Joint Motion for Administrative Closure to the presiding Immigration Judge on November 29.
This is the first time the government has asked an immigation court to close removal proceedings against the gay or lesbian spouse of an American citizen since the formation of an inter-agency prosecutorial discretion working group began its work on November 17 with the goal of finding and closing all “low-priority” deportation cases.
Statement from attorney Lavi Soloway, Founder, Stop The Deportations:
“We are thankful to Immigration & Customs Enforcement and to Immigration Judge Terry Bain for closing this case and stopping the deportation of Monica Alcota. Although the Department of Homeland Security has declined numerous requests in recent months for specific, LGBT-inclusive guidance on deportation cases, this action demonstrates that existing guidelines that weigh “family relationships” and “ties to the community” can be properly applied to protect married lesbian and gay binational couples. After a courageous battle, Monica and Cristina have arrived at the end of a long journey that began when Monica was pulled off a Greyhound bus in July 2009 and held in an ICE detention facility for three months while we fought for her release. That nightmare ends today. Monica and Cristina can now turn to the business of building a future together without living in constant fear of deportation.
Importantly, this shows married lesbian and gay binational couples can be protected from deportation when ICE fairly applies its own guidelines. By halting this deportation, ICE prevents a marriage from being torn part by DOMA, a law that the President and the Attorney General have determined to be unconstitutional and have refused to defend in Federal Court.”
Statement from Monica Alcota and Cristina Ojeda:
“We are grateful that the government lawyers and the judge saw the humanity of our situation and respected our marriage. We have learned through this process how important it is to stand up for ourselves and how much we can all achieve when we demand to be treated equally. This battle is not over. Our green card case is on appeal, and of course we will not have full equality until DOMA is gone. We must all continue to work to make sure no lesbian or gay couples are separated by deportation. We thank all those who have supported the Stop The Deportations campaign and all those who have given us encouragement and strength to keep up the fight.”
In March, New York Immigration Judge Terry Bain, acting with the agreement of the Immigration & Customs Enforcement prosecuting attorney, temporarily postponed Monica’s deportation hearing on the basis that Cristina had filed a marriage-based “green card” petition for her Argentinean wife. At the time, Monica and Cristina were the first married same-sex couple to have their deportation case postponed on the basis of their marriage. The couple was scheduled to return to court on December 6, 2011 for a deportation hearing to review the status of that petition.
In April, USCIS denied Cristina Ojeda’s “green card” petition for Monica, citing DOMA and also relying on a 1982 decision known as Adams v. Howerton from California’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Ojeda appealed the denial of her petition to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The lawyers for the couple, Stop The Deportations co-founders, Lavi Soloway and Noemi Masliah, filed a brief arguing that the BIA should not affirm the denial considering that the Department of Justice, of which the BIA is a part, has itself determined that DOMA is unconstitutional. The brief argued that the BIA should hold the case in abeyance, given the rapidly evolving legal context, specifically the DOJ’s filing of a 31-page brief against DOMA and in support of the plaintiff in the Golinski case on July 1; the DOJ’s decision to allow married same-sex couples to be recognized as married in U.S. Bankruptcy Court proceedings on July 7; and the Attorney General’s historic intervention in a BIA decision on May 5 that suggested the DOJ was considering whether “partners” in civil unions could be recognized as spouses for immigration law purposes.
In the memo requesting ICE attorneys join the motion to close proceedings, Soloway argued that Monica Alcota met numerous prosecutorial discretion criteria laid out in the June 17th Morton Memo (original memo text italicized):
- Whether the person has a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, child, or parent.
Soloway argued that Monica has a U.S. citizen spouse, Cristina, and they were lawfully married in Connecticut in 2010.
- The person’s ties and contributions to the community, including family relationships.
Soloway argued that Monica has formed strong community ties in the 11 years she has lived in the US: she has a successful antique furniture business, is a well-respected member of her community, and received a number of very heartfelt letters from long-time friends and associates detailing her connection to her community.
- Particular attention should be paid to plaintiffs in non-frivolous lawsuits involving civil rights.
Soloway argued that Monica and Cristina were part of an advocacy campaign, namely, Stop the Deportations, that had filed I-130 marriage-based “green card” petitions in order to challenge the Defense of Marriage Act in pursuit of (equal) civil rights.
- The person’s criminal history, including arrests, prior convictions, or outstanding arrest warrants.
Soloway noted that Monica has no criminal history, no arrests, convictions, outstanding arrests or charges.
- The person’s ties to the home country and conditions in the country.
Soloway argued that Monica has no ties to her home country of Argentina and has not lived there for 11 years. Additionally, Monica had no intention of ever returning to live in Argentina and feared for her safety as an openly gay woman were she forced to live there.
In response, ICE agreed to close the case and submitted a Joint Motion to Administratively Close proceedings directly to Immigration Judge Terry Bain on November 29.
For Monica and Cristina, the move by the government means that they will no longer have a cloud hanging over their future. They will continue to fight for full equality, including a “green card” for Monica based on her legal marriage to a U.S. citizen, but without worrying that the government will destroy their marriage, or tear apart the life they have built over the past three and a half years.
STOP THE DEPORTATIONS – THE DOMA PROJECT, a campaign co-founded by attorney, Lavi Soloway in July 2010 along with his law partner, Noemi Masliah, has contributed to the trend of recent victories for lesbian and gay couples who are faced with deportation, separation or exile because of the Defense of Marriage Act. For nearly two decades, Soloway has been the most prominent attorney and advocate on LGBT immigration law and policy in the United States. He has worked exclusively in this field since co-founding the non-profit organization, Immigration Equality, in 1993.
IMMEDIATE RELEASE- DECEMBER 6, 2011
Press Inquiries to attorney, Lavi Soloway, or
Project Associate, Derek Tripp, at Stop The Deportations-The DOMA Project
A Look Back At Monica & Cristina In the News
“Uniting American Love: Binational Couples Press For End to Deportations,” Gay City News, October 30, 2010
“Monica and Cristina: Binational Lesbian Couple in Queens Fights DOMA and Deportation,” Stop The Deportations, October 26, 2010
“Hope for Queens Couples’ Immigration Rights After Obama’s Abandoning of Defense of Marriage Act,” NY Daily News, February 26, 2011
“DOMA Offers Slim Hope For Same-Sex Bi-National Couples,” UpTown Radio, March 11, 2011
“Advocates Urge Delays In Same-Sex Binational Deportation Cases Based On DOMA’s Uncertain Future,” Equality Matters, March 21, 2011
“New York Couple Fighting to Stay Together,” Freedom To Marry, March 22, 2011
“Monica & Cristina Will Ask Immigration Judge Tuesday to Terminate Deportation Proceedings,” Stop The Deportations, March 21, 2011
“Immigration judge suspends deportation of foreign-born gay spouse,” GayAmericaBlog, March 22, 2011
“Queens Woman Won’t Be Deported, Judge Says, Until Legal Status Of Same-Sex Marriage Is Clear, Huffington Post, March 23, 2011
“Gay woman gets stay of deportation in the midst of DOMA upheaval,” Nerve.com, March 23, 2011
“Lesbian U.S. Citizen First to File for her Spouse’s Green Card,” Journal.Us, March 24, 2011
“Hope for Binational Lesbian and Gay Couples,” SheWired.com, March 28, 2011
“DOMA And Immigration: What’s Next?” WNYC, April 4, 2011
“Gay woman in same-sex Queens marriage won’t be deported, judge says ruling depends on pending law,” Daily News, March 23, 2011
“Lesbian Couple Fight Deportation Effort,” Passport Magazine, March 24, 2011
“US lesbian couple have deportation suspended: A lesbian couple in the US the first couple to successfully halt pending deportation proceedings based upon their marital status,” Pink Paper, March 24, 2011
“NY Court Considers Marriage Of Argentine Gay Woman For Citizenship,” On Top Magazine, March 28, 2011
“Obama’s Future Win Will Come Too Late,” VIDEO, Pam’s House Blend/FireDogLake, June 9, 2011
“Lambda Legal to Immigration: Stop using DOMA to discriminate against married same-sex couples,” The Windy City Times, July 13, 2011
“For Queens Lesbian Couple, A New Curve Ball,” Gay City News, July 22, 2011
“Queens Gay Couple Fear New Law Will Not Stop Deportation,” Queenslyfe, July 23, 2011
Can the U.S. Government Recognize True Love? Married New Yorkers, Brandon and Luke, Join Fight Against DOMA
More Than Just Friends
Luke and I had been best friends for a couple of years when we faced a decision that many gay friends confront: Whether to take our relationship to a romantic level. We soon learned that as a binational couple, we would face even greater challenges.
Luke was the first person I met when I moved to New York from Los Angeles in January 2007. He is South African, and I’m a sucker for a good accent. We clicked instantly. Rarely did I hang out with someone one-on-one and feel comfortable; if there was any lull in the conversation, I felt like it was my fault and my duty to fill it. But hanging out with Luke was effortless. Other friends drifted in and out of my life, but Luke was always there and I could always talk to him. Our lives merged more and more over the first year and a half, despite my moves to that distant region called Brooklyn and our neighbor to the north, Harlem. His friends became my friends and my friends became his. We went to movies and dinner in groups, but more often than not we were meeting in coffee shops and enjoying each other’s company. It was so simple and so… easy.
We grew closer as we talked about everything, called each other out on our ridiculousness, shared our lives and revealed our imperfections with each other. When I came out of the closet, I had no clue how to form friendships with other gay men without making it seem like I was asking them on a date. Half of the time I wasn’t sure myself. I’ve rarely been sure where I stand with people. And I’ve rarely known what I’ve been looking for. Despite this, my friendship with Luke never seemed to get bogged down with such self-doubt. Even when we seemed to run out of things to say it was oddly comfortable. Our friendship became extremely valuable to me.
Luke would make a comment and hold my hand. In doing so, I noticed Luke had a way of holding my hand that seemed so loving and nurturing. I started looking at him differently but I was afraid of our friendship changing, or worse, ending.
The tension built when I was away on a work trip in Atlanta. I was texting back-and-forth with Luke, when our byte-sized conversation hit a lull. That dreadful lull. Then his text came. You know the one.
“Brandon, have you ever thought of us as more than friends?”
I shot back, “Really Luke?? Over text?? While I’m out of town???”
“LOL,” he replied.
I was simply too afraid of our friendship changing, and I told him we would be better off if we did not put it at risk. I made it sound like a very logical and reasonable solution, but still, I was filled with fear. What if we made great friends, but we weren’t compatible as boyfriends? Our friendship would be forever altered. And finally, what if it was true love? What then?
When I returned back to New York, things were different. Everything I was afraid of happening was happening. He would skip out on going to dinner with our group of friends or he would leave early with other friends. He seemed distant. I had never experienced the kind of feelings that overwhelmed me when I sensed him slipping away. I felt a void in my life. I told my therapist and one of my closest friends about our text conversation and how afraid I was of things changing. My therapist said, “When’s the last time you made a good decision based on fear?” I had no response. It was one of the most logical things I’d ever heard. I texted Luke a few days later.
“Have you ever thought of us as more than friends?”
We both LOL’d.
Our first kiss was on my 29th birthday. It was ridiculous how cinematic it was: the two of us desperately trying to get a moment away from our friends the night of my party, finally ducking around a corner as it started to rain. We pulled each other against the side of a building across the street from Sheridan Square and started to kiss. That was more than three years ago.
Our friendship had changed. And nothing collapsed. The ground didn’t open up and swallow us whole. My fear subsided. It turned into a hope that I had never felt before, that sense when you meet someone you can imagine waking up next to and craving a day of doing everything or nothing as long as he is with you.
We already knew so much about each other. We’d seen all of our different moods, unfiltered. He moved in within 6 months. We got a dog, a Dachshund named Andrew. We moved from Harlem to a great apartment in Greenwich Village. We were a family. We started talking about marriage less than a year into our relationship.
We wanted to wait until we could have a big wedding; neither Luke nor I is a man of half-measures. We soon realized it would be years before we would be able to afford the kind of wedding we wanted, but we didn’t want that to stop us.
The day we got our rings, we sat at our dining room table, smiling, alternating glances between them and each other. Andrew was looking up at us, waiting patiently to be fed or played with. There was kind of a healthy blend of shock, fear and excitement between us that was palpable. These days two men marrying can be considered political activism as much as an expression of love and commitment. Neither of us thought that at this point in our lives we would have met the man we wanted to be with for the rest of our lives. For me, there was no question: My best friend made the perfect partner.
I got down on one knee, slipped the ring on Luke’s finger and said “Luke, will you marry me?”
Almost immediately I felt a knot in my stomach. Not because of the question or Luke’s answer (he said yes). I felt like it wasn’t real because it wouldn’t truly be official for all the world to know. It didn’t feel equal. I felt like an imposter in a straight world’s tradition and privilege. I shared these feelings with Luke, who assured me our marriage was just as valid as any other marriage. This was going to be our marriage and our ceremony, he said. We were going to start our own traditions. We understood from the beginning that this decision would cement our commitment to each other. That was the easy part. I was dating my best friend.
When the economy collapsed, I got laid off. Within a few months, I was able to find a new job but Luke’s business slowed down. So we were tight on money. Our dreams of having a big, gorgeous wedding seemed to be slipping further away. So we opted for the cheapest, er, most affordable wedding in history. With our $20 rings from the glamorous Canal Street, we caught a train up to Milford, CT ($50), obtained marriage licenses ($40), and caught a cab to our friend’s house for the weekend ($10). During the ceremony, we smiled from ear to ear and didn’t break eye contact while the Mayor of Milford read the gender-neutral wedding vows and Andrew sniffed around City Hall.
We spent the weekend at our friend’s house and watched the movie “Milk” in honor of our wedding, which also happened to be gay pride weekend.
Our first year as a newly married couple has been phenomenal, though not always easy. We’re moving through the same growing pains as every other healthy marriage. Communication, compassion and humility have gotten us through our difficult times, and will continue to do so as we grow together. We have replaced our Canal Street wedding rings with something more appropriate. But our first rings will always have the most sentimental value.
On our first anniversary, New York joined five other states and the District of Columbia ending discrimination against lesbian and gay couples in marriage. We celebrated with thousands of other New Yorkers, knowing that other couples would no longer be forced to travel like refugees to Connecticut or other states to do what all other Americans take for granted. But winning marriage equality in New York, and watching the euphoria on Sunday July 24 as thousands of lesbian and gay couples married across New York state, is a celebration of a job not yet completed. Marriage Equality can never simply mean winning the right to marry in each state, as long as the federal government denies recognition to those marriages. Each of us, married and celebrating our love and this historic advance, remains unequal. Marriage InEquality will continue until the ruinous and hateful era of DOMA is ended.
And that is how Luke and I decided to embark on a new chapter of our lives together. I will fight for my right to sponsor my husband for a “green card,” a privilege heterosexual Americans take for granted. With President Obama’s recent decision not to defend DOMA and signals from the Department of Homeland Security about protecting LGBT families from being torn apart by deportation, we believe that this is the time to challenge our exclusion from the family-based immigration system that otherwise works reasonably well to keep opposite-sex binational couples together.
We start here today by arguing our case in the court of public opinion. Recently, we joined Stop The Deportations – The DOMA Project, and I filed a petition for Luke as my spouse. We know that puts us in a potentially perilous position: unlike an opposite-sex couple my petition will face the insurmountable hurdle of DOMA and unlike all other spouses in our situation, Luke could face deportation if we are not ultimately successful. We do not want to be forced into exile and we cannot imagine life apart. This means we might have no option but to fight this in the courts and in Congress like so many thousands of gay binational couples who have raised the profile of this inhumane and cruel discrimination. Whatever the short-term challenges, we will not allow ourselves to be torn apart by my government.
For now, I’m determined not to let fears about our uncertain future dominate my thoughts. I am not worrying about being forced to leave our home and lives we’ve built in New York. I’m not thinking about saying goodbye to friends and family, or how we’d ever re-build new lives for ourselves half-way across the world in South Africa. I cannot allow myself to think of what would happen if Luke was deported. Instead, I’m trying to channel the uncertainty into the sort of optimism I felt when President Obama was elected: That this is a country in which we judge others by the content of their character. We should not hold anyone back because of who they are or who they love. And, most importantly for us, in the end, we must take on this battle. We will not bring about change by standing on the sidelines.
Can a nation’s immigration laws recognize something as simple as true love? We think so. If change comes, Luke will truly be able to live his life to its fullest potential with his husband and best friend. Which will make it all the more possible to take that honeymoon we have been dreaming of.
Jackie and Gloria: Married Lesbian Couple in Massachusetts Fights Deportation to Pakistan That Would Tear Them Apart
Gloria and I met at college three years ago when we were assigned as roommates. She was an international student from Pakistan and I was born and raised in Massachusetts. Despite our cultural differences we had an instant connection since the first day. For the first few months we explored Boston together and our friendship grew stronger and deeper until we became inseparable. Some of our friends even called us “the conjoined twins” because we were rarely seen apart. We began to realize that our relationship was different than the friendship of our fellow roommates at the college. We were falling deeply in love.
As summer approached, I worried about not seeing Gloria till the fall. Then she dropped a bombshell on me, “I might not be coming back to school.” I was in shock. I was very upset. I asked Gloria why was she going to move and where was she going to go. She explained that she was having some financial problems and that she was going to go live with her parents who had moved from Pakistan to Texas. Gloria was on a foreign student visa, and a move to Texas meant that she either had to change schools or leave the United States. After we talked, we went for a walk on the beach that was near our campus and talked about how much we would miss each other. We could not imagine waking up and not seeing each other’s face first thing in the morning. Late that night, both of us pretty sleepless, Gloria proposed a solution. “Let’s suppose I ask my parents if it would be okay if you moved in with me to their house, would you move?” In an instant, without any hesitation, I answered “Yes, of course.” I had never been to Texas before but all of a sudden it did not matter, all that mattered at that time was to be with each other.
I didn’t know what to expect living with Gloria’s parents; I just wanted to be with Gloria. Whatever compromises we had to make to be together were well worth that goal. In August 2009 I moved to Texas and lived with Gloria and her parents. Over the course of the next year we realized that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. Gloria’s parents were kind to me, but we played a kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell” game in order not to offend their sensibilities. It was not the greatest arrangement but we were together for that year and managed to keep Gloria in legal status while we figured out how to stay together.
We wanted to have our own home and eventually get married. Since we could not get married in Texas, we decided to move back to Massachusetts and make a home of our own together. By then we were sharing everything including our finances. Our lives were fully integrated.
We married in Massachusetts on October 23, 2011. It was the happiest day of my life.
We recently received a letter from Gloria’s school that her student visa status will soon expire if she does not again enroll in class. At this point we cannot afford Gloria’s international student tuition fees which are almost two times more expensive than in-state tuition. With the expiration of Gloria’s student status we know that she is deportable to Pakistan. Even though she is a law-abiding person, and despite the love and commitment that we share, there is no way for me to sponsor her.
As an American I find it very unfair that my spouse could be taken away from me just on the basis of our gender and sexual orientation. If Gloria had fallen in love with an American man and married, there would be no problem with the immigration. As a married couple they would be protected, and allowed to build a future together.
When I was a young girl I was taught that laws of my country are there to protect us and to make sure we are all treated equally. I do not see how the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is protecting anyone. Instead, I feel that DOMA is a way for my government to punish me for falling in love with a Pakistani woman.
As a citizen of United States of America I am witnessing a tremendous, harrowing injustice being done to my family. Gloria and I are ready to join the fight for full equality and end this injustice. We cannot imagine standing by silently. There is no way we can live in Pakistan. An lesbian Pakistani woman is already at great risk, but a lesbian binational couple? Half of which consists of an American lesbian? It is ridiculous. Every freedom we take for granted in this country is implicated here. We have no other country where we can go, nor should I as an American even be thinking about exile. Our lives are here.
We cannot allow the random fact of our differing citizenships and our same gender be a reason for the American government to destroy what is most precious to us, our love for each other. We hope those reading this will help join this campaign to end this humanitarian crisis. We may be young, but we have great hope and optimism for the future. We know that we will not achieve full equality without fighting for it, and so we ask you to join with us and demand that the Obama administration protect all lesbian and gay binational couples, ensure that none of us are torn apart or forced into exile.
ICE Denies Brian & Anton’s Request for Deferred Action, Refuses to Stop the Deportation – Obama Administration New LGBT-Inclusive Policy Fails to Stop DOMA Deportation
Philadelphia Deportation Officers Deny Request By Gay Binational Couple For “Deferred Action”
ICE Refuses to Apply New Obama Administration Deportation Guidelines to Stop “DOMA Deportation” of Gay Indonesian Married to U.S. Citizen
In a First Test of New Deportation Policy Meant to Set Aside Low Priority Cases, Including for LGBT Families, the Obama Administration Fails to Deliver
PHILADELPHIA, OCTOBER 7, 2011 – The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Philadelphia has refused to stop the deportation that would separate Anton Tanumihardja, an Indonesian citizen, from his American husband, Brian Andersen, despite new guidelines issued by the Obama administration that are intended to set aside all low-priority deportation cases and keep all families together – including gay and lesbian couples.
|Brian and Anton at home in Philadelphia earlier this year|
Specifically, ICE rejected their request for “deferred action,” a remedy that allows individuals meeting specific criteria to stay in the country indefinitely, even though they are technically deportable. At a meeting today with a Philadelphia deportation officer, Anton was told that unless there was some intervention in his case that reversed this decision, he would face deportation by January.
In its decision, ICE said only that they denied the request because there was nothing “extraordinary” about their case. The Field Office Director did not explain how he arrived at this decision or why he would only grant deferred action to “extraordinary cases.” ICE did not explain why they were not applying the guidelines set forth on June 19 by ICE Director John Morton. ICE made no mention of the August 18 letter by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano announcing the administration’s intent to conduct a system-wide review to ensure that all low-priority deportation cases were set aside, and made no mention of the DHS clarification on that day that LGBT families are included in the guidelines.
Statement from Lavi Soloway, lawyer for Anton Tanumihardja & Brian Andersen, and founder of Stop The Deportations:
“We are shocked and disappointed that ICE has failed to implement the guidelines set forth by this administration. The Obama administration made a commitment to stop deportations that would tear apart families, including gay and lesbian couples, and yet in its decision the ICE office in Philadelphia is failing to make good on that commitment. The administration must take immediate action to ensure that the new deportation policy is being implemented fairly and consistently by ICE deportation officers in local offices, or this policy announcement is meaningless.”
Anton Tanumihardja satisfies numerous criteria set forth by the administration in its prosecutorial discretion guidelines: (1) he has strong ties to Philadelphia which has been his home for the past 9 years; (2) he is a hard working and respected member of his community; (3) ever since fleeing Indonesia, he has pursued a legal immigration process that was ultimately unsuccessful; (4) he is married to his U.S. citizen spouse, Brian Anderson, and has strong family relationships to his spouse and his spouse’s family; (5) he has no ties to Indonesia, a country he fled because of persecution due to his identity as a gay man, Christian and an ethnic Chinese person. The guidelines set forth by DHS also require ICE to consider conditions in the country to which one (i.e., Anton) would be deported. Anton cannot return to Indonesia and live safely; furthermore, there is no way that his husband, Brian, could move there, nor any way they could safely or legally live there as a legally married gay couple. All these conditions are laid out in the administration’s prosecutorial discretion guidelines. Despite meeting these conditions, and despite the administration’s recent confirmation that those guidelines would be applied to gay and lesbian couples, Anton now faces the reality of deportation by January.
Brian and Anton’s case is the first test of the administration’s commitment to stop deportations involving same-sex binational couples since the August 18 announcement by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. It is the first time that the spouse of a gay American, with a final removal order, has requested prosecutorial discretion under the new guidelines.
“The Obama administration’s new policy has failed to protect Anton and Brian from deportation. ICE’s determination to deport Anton regardless of the new guidelines demonstrates that the administration has not instructed ICE deportation officers on the implementation of the LGBT-inclusive prosecutorial discretion guidelines for an individual with a final order of removal,” said Lavi Soloway. “Today’s decision is a devastating setback for this couple, and should be of great concern to everyone, including the Obama administration, as they work to ensure that we have a fair and humane deportation policy.”
For more information on the campaign to help couples like Brian & Anton, please see www.StopTheDeportations.com.
Press Contacts: Lavi Soloway, Lawyer/Founder, Stop the Deportations
Media Field Strategist
Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
Background of this Case
|Anton and Brian on the wedding day in June|
Anton had previously exhausted all his appeals and recently received a final denial of his last appeal. Because Anton has a “final order of removal,” ICE has the power to put him on a plane and deport him at any time. The request for deferred action was his final hope for a halt to deportation.
Earlier this year, Brian and Anton faced the cruel coincidence of a deportation scheduled for Valentine’s Day. Anton, with his bags packed and his one-way plane ticket in hand, was prepared to follow ICE’s instructions: board a plane voluntarily on February 14 or be taken into custody and forcibly deported, even though he knew that by boarding that plane he would be separated from Brian for at least ten years. Stop The Deportations, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and other LGBT groups mounted an emergency advocacy with the support of U.S. Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) and Philadelphia Congressman Robert Brady (D-PA) to raise the profile of the case and persuade ICE to reconsider the case.
Just three hours before Anton’s flight to Jakarta was scheduled to take off, ICE finally agreed to postpone the deportation. Anton was put under an Order of Supervision and was not held in ICE custody. Officially, ICE allowed Anton to stay until a final decision was made by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) on a Motion to Reopen that had been filed in 2010. That Motion was denied on May 31, 2011. A request this summer that DHS join a second Motion to Reopen the case failed when DHS declined to do so. The BIA can still re-open the case on its own decision, but it rarely does so.
On June 12, Brian and Anton married in Washington, D.C., in a ceremony across the street from the White House. Brian filed a green card petition for Anton and will continue to advocate tirelessly for his right to sponsor Anton to stay with him in this country as his spouse.
Brian & Anton Face Final Deportation Decision on Oct 7 Will New Guidelines Protect This Gay Couple As Promised?
Read this excellent article by Jen Coletta yesterday in the Phildelphia Gay News here and GLAAD’s blog posting urging action in support of Brian and Anton here. See also, our previous summary, The First Big Test: Will The Obama Administration’s New Deportation Rules Come in Time for Brian & Anton?
Together for 8 Years and Married, Donald and Arthur Face DOMA Deportation Proceedings in Miami Tomorrow
Stop the Deportations co-founder, Lavi Soloway, will appear in a Miami courtroom on Thursday September 8 to fight for the right of Donald and Arthur to remain together in this country. Arthur has lived in this country for over 16 years, and if it were not for DOMA he would already have a green card. We will make the court aware that the U.S. Department of Justice explicitly argued for the first time on September 2 in a Federal District Court filing that DOMA is unconstitutional in this context. For more information on DOJ’s historic September 2 filing see here.
(Originally posted on May 10, 2011)
|Donald and Arthur will appear in Immigration Court in Miami on September 8
for a deportation hearing. Please help us save their marriage!
Arthur and I met just after he had lost someone very important in his life. I was a shopkeeper, and later the assistant manager for a video and clothing store where Arthur shopped for music primarily. At that same time I was working part time as the secretary of The Episcopal Church of the Intercession. I have always felt that my faith has strengthened me; it has always given me great victory over my physical health challenges and allowed me to keep my mind positive.
I held and comforted Arthur many nights in order that he might find some inner peace following the abrupt loss of a great love in his life. He was nearly inconsolable in those times. We listened to so very many great songs and mixes in those days. Arthur would help me order and choose which loud dance music and which new mixes and DJs were going to be hot that year. Together, we did everything. We realized we loved the same things. It was around about the year 2002 and I was in love with Arthur. By the next year we were boyfriends.
By this time Arthur had told me he was here on a work visa and had been on various visas at various prestigious companies. I shared with him my inner need to travel some day and also told him my ultimate vacation destination was Angel Falls in Venezuela. He lit up and told me all about it. He told me he’d seen it up close. I was so envious and this seemed so much like a match made in heaven.
Continue reading here.
The First Big Test: Will The Obama Administration’s New Deportation Rules Come in Time for Brian & Anton?
Brian & Anton will spend the next 38 days waiting for a phone call from ICE that may never come.
For the second time this year, Anton Tanumihardja, an Indonesian citizen, and his American husband, Brian Andersen, face the terrifying prospect of a deportation that will destroy their marriage. After losing a nine-year legal battle for asylum, Anton was given a “final order of removal” that may be executed on October 7.
Although this administration recently announced a “kinder, gentler” deportation policy with “prosecutorial discretion” guidelines that include same-sex binational couples, Brian & Anton will still wait anxiously for another month to learn whether this policy will be properly applied in Anton’s case.
Brian and Anton’s case will be the first real test of the administration’s commitment to stop deportations involving same-sex binational couples since the August 18 announcement by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, promising to set-aside low-priority deportation cases. It will also give us a first opportunity to confirm whether individual ICE Deportation Officers implement the LGBT-inclusive prosecutorial discretion guidelines for an individual with a final order of removal.
Unlike the two history-making cases (Henry & Josh, Doug & Alex) in which Stop The Deportations has won “administrative closure” this year, Anton’s case is significantly further along in the legal process. Anton has exhausted all his appeals and recently received a final denial of his last appeal. Because Anton has a “final order of removal” ICE has the power to put him on a plane and deport him at any time.
Will ICE Deportations and Removals Officers apply the prosecutorial discretion guidelines to protect this married gay couple from being torn apart? As part of the Stop The Deportations campaign, Brian and Anton will use every day that remains to ensure that Anton is granted “deferred action” and to ensure that the Obama administration’s commitment to same-sex binational couples facing deportation has tangible results.
Earlier this year, Brian and Anton faced the cruel coincidence of a deportation scheduled for Valentine’s Day. Anton, with his bags packed and his one-way plane ticket in hand, was prepared to follow ICE’s instructions: board a plane voluntarily on February 14 or be taken into custody and forcibly deported, even though he knew that by boarding that plane he would be separated from Brian for at least ten years. Stop The Deportations, GLAAD and other LGBT groups mounted an emergency advocacy with the support of U.S. Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) and Philadelphia Congressman Robert Brady (D-PA) to raise the profile of the case and persuade ICE to reconsider the case.
Just three hours before Anton’s flight to Jakarta was scheduled to take off, ICE finally agreed to postpone the deportation. Anton was put under an order of supervision and was not held in ICE custody. At regular intervals he was required to check in with his Deportation Officer at the local Deportations and Removals Operations office of ICE. Officially, ICE allowed Anton to stay until a final decision was made by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) on a Motion to Reopen that had been filed in 2010. In fact, deportations are routinely carried out even in cases where there such motions are pending, so it seemed likely that ICE was, at least in part, responding to the specific humanitarian circumstances faced by Brian and Anton. This gave them hope that they would have a future together.
|Photo by Jeff Fusco/Philadelphia Weekly|
Unfortunately, in early June, Anton learned that the BIA had denied his final appeal. The couple was devastated, but they decided to go forward with their planned wedding. On June 12, Brian and Anton were married in the company of friends in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. Brian immediately filed a marriage-based I-130 petition for Anton, joining our DOMA challenge.
On August 25, Anton went to see his Deportation Officer for his first supervised check-in since the BIA denial prepared to submit a request for “deferred action.” It had only been a few days since Secretary Napolitano announced that the administration would review all pending deportation cases, including those with final orders of removal. Still, Brian & Anton could not sleep the night before; they worried that ICE in Philadelphia would not know how to apply the prosecutorial discretion rules to gay couples. Their fears turned out to be well-founded. The officer was kind and co-operative, but he was not sure how to proceed given that these guidelines were new.
After conferring with his supervisor for 45 minutes, the officer returned to tell them that no decision could be made on that day. He instructed Anton to return on October 7 and advised him that there was a strong chance that on that day he would informing him that he deportation would proceed.
Once again, the clock is ticking on Brian and Anton’s marriage. It does not have to be this way.
|Anton & Brian on their wedding day|
Anton is a prime candidate for “deferred action.” He has never committed a crime, he has strong ties to Philadelphia, he has close family ties to his husband, Brian, and Brian’s family. He has been here for nine years and has worked hard and paid taxes. Finally, conditions in Indonesia would make return to that country not only dangerous for Anton as a gay man who is also a member of the Chinese Christian minority, but would make it impossible for Brian to join him. Not only does Indonesia not provide for the immigration of same-sex spouses or partners of its citizens, but a conspicuous, openly gay couple like Brian and Anton would be vulnerable to abuse and harm.
Brian and Anton should not have to wait until October 7 to learn whether their lives will be torn apart. We urge the administration to make good on their promise to exercise discretion and stop deportations that tear apart LGBT families. The Department of Homeland Security can do this today by directing the Philadelphia ICE office to make a decision on Anton’s request for deferred action now.
Monica & Cristina Take DOMA Deportation Fight to Board of Immigration Appeals, Challenging a 29-Year Old Precedent