How DOMA’s Repeal Is Changing Our Life

Submitted as part of a series that Equality Texas is doing on bi-national couples.

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Not a lot of our friends, even our gay friends, truly understood the concept of “legal strangers.” As an Australian in a same-sex relationship with an American, our ability to remain a family always seemed constrained by the USA’s decision not to define our relationship as a valid one. This – in the eyes of the law – kept us as legal strangers. Over the 14+ years of our life together, our families recognized the validity of our relationship, as did our friends. To many, we were married and equally boring as we lived our lives in suburbia. But, if I were prevented from entering the country, there was nothing my husband could do about it – were were strangers to each other in the eyes of the law.

Over the years, we have managed to “survive” the challenges that we have faced for me to remain in the country. It was important to us that we did everything legally. We understood the risks each time I put my life in the hands of the INS/USCIS. This stress and anxiety, and the consequences over the “what if…” were kept hidden from our family and friends. To most of our friends, we just continued to be one of those gay couples that live in Frisco. Little did they know that we had plans in place to move away in a very short period of time if my visa were not renewed.

It is funny as both of us are political in nature, but our marriage was something that we didn’t want to politicize. Our marriage was for us. It was our next step in our commitment to each other. So on March 5, 2013 – on our 14th anniversary – we were married in Vancouver, Canada. Our lives changed, we felt different, we felt renewed. It is a day I’ll remember for a very long time. However, what happened in Canada didn’t change a thing when it came to the United States. Here we were still legal strangers.

When DOMA was overturned, the world changed. My husband and I were no longer strangers. We became equals to other couples (well mostly equal). Our lives had validity (in the eyes of the law), and the fear of not being together dissolved and we felt that we could finally move forward. Our journey has started a new chapter as we have started the process of me becoming a permanent resident based on marriage. I still call Australia home, but the US is where my heart is, and it’s nice that I don’t have to leave.

Visa Update

I’ve been bad in not keeping this blog up to date. I tend to twitter more than anything else now, but have avoided making my tweets a part of the blog (sometimes there are too many).

Anyway, as I mentioned in my last blog post about my visa, there was some good news, and finally on September 26 (two months later), I received notice that I was approved, and could start working with BBBS again. Yay!

The visa is good for two years, and also removes the concerns I had over travelling back to Australia on my student visa. I’ve received all the paperwork from my attorney, and should be right to get my new visa in my passport when I head back down under next year.

During the time that I was in limbo, I returned to UNT to continue some studies. Unfortunately when I found out that I had to get into UNT quickly, it was the Friday before classes started, so there was not a lot of classes to choose from. I did get a couple that I ended up really enjoying, and I think when I return to continue my graduate studies I will take these classes again. Of course, when news arrived about my visa, I dropped all my classes like a hot potato.

I’ve been back working now for just over a month, and things have settled down, and life is returning to normal (actually probably more than normal).

Will that be on visa?

I got some news about my visa today, and it was positive (at least that is how I took it). Still playing the waiting game, but at least I know that it’s in the queue.

Today was not such a great day.

Today was my unexpected last day with working for Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS). This reality occurred after receiving an email from my immigration attorney on Monday that stated (in part):

“In regards to your case, we found out through an inquiry this morning they are not going to process it as premium processing and that we must wait on their normal processing which could be a few days or a few weeks. We have to just sit and wait at this point, but hopefully we will hear something soon.”

Following receipt of the email, a flurry of activity occurred trying to figure out firstly, what went wrong with the process for my visa application; and secondly, what could be done to re-engage and (hopefully) speed up the process to prevent me having to stop working for BBBS.

Simply put, it turns out that my attorney was under the impression that my visa could be processed in an accelerated manner if I was happy to pay for this service. I was, and I did. In fact, we (my attorney and I) were counting on this type of service to enable me to continue working for BBBS without any interupption, as it would normally take between 1-3 months to process my application. What we did not count on was the Immigration office advising that this particular application could not get processed in an accelerated manner “at this time.” Not sure what the reason actually is for this decision, but it did nothing to stop the panic from starting to fester.

So after exploring a number of options, it finally came down to the realization that as of 5PM today, I was not going to be an employee with BBBS … at least for a few days to hopefully no more than than a few weeks. So earlier today, I sent out an email to my case load that I no longer worked for BBBS, and that I hoped to be back with them in the next week or so. I was actually rather calm about it, which kind of surprised me. I am hopeful that my calmness is a reflection that everything is going to be okay and I’ll be back working with BBBS shortly. Fingers crossed.

Of course the silver lining is that BBBS is very supportive and have agreed to give me some time until this matter is resolved. While it means some extra work is being done by staff within my old team, it is very comforting to know that I am appreciated for what I have to offer the organization, and that they are willing to acknowledge the work that I have contributed over the last ten months and not let it just disappear. Personally, I think this is the main difference in working for a nonprofit in my view – they care. There are many other differences, but this is one that stands out.

Oh, and just for fun, I developed a cold that knocked my energy levels way down, so that only made my week all that much better.