Monday, July 11, 2011

Stop The DOMA Deportation of My Brother-In-Law: California Family Fights to Keep Doug & Alex Together

A letter from Cecily McDonald about the fight to keep her brother, Doug, and his Venezuelan-born husband, Alex, together in this country.

Doug and Alex on their Wedding Day in July 2010
         The Fourth of July has just passed, but for my family it doesn’t mean the same thing anymore.  As I sat and listened to the patriotic songs playing while we watched fireworks at the high school where 2 of my 3 sons have graduated, I was saddened.  Our family is not enjoying the freedom depicted in those songs.  Instead, we have a heavy cloud hanging over us because two members of our family are not free to enjoy the freedom and equality that our country celebrates on this holiday.  Those two people are my brother, Doug, and his husband, my brother-in-law, Alex.

            Most of our family first met Alex on Thanksgiving 2005.  Like other American families, we traditionally celebrate the holidays with the extended family and we are often joined by friends who aren’t able to be with their own.  Since that day we have all grown to love and admire him for many reasons. But now the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is threatening to take him away from us all. 

My brother Doug and Alex are now married, but because they are a gay couple, Alex is in imminent danger of deportation to Venezuela. This is only because their marriage and their 6-year relationship is not being respected as all other marriages are under federal immigration law. This inequality means Doug & Alex will be torn apart unless something is done very soon to save their marriage.  That is something very hard to understand and extremely upsetting in many ways.  Because of DOMA our family has become painfully aware that “all men are created equal” really means “only some men are created equal.” How can this be happening to all of us? I kept wondering that on the Fourth of July as we sat there surrounded by people waving our country’s flag and applauding the show.

            Let me try to explain why this is hurting our family.  For me, Alex is another brother.  Growing up it was only Doug and me, though I wished I had another brother or a sister.  When Alex became part of our family in 2005, we bonded quickly just as though we had always been siblings. Now I get to love, tease, talk to, and laugh with Alex and he gives it all right back. My sons are lucky, too. With Alex, they have another uncle who loves them, gives them advice, and gets firm with them when they need it.  Although they are grown now, they still recognize that Alex's wisdom and experience are valid and come from a place of love and respect for them as his nephews.  The same goes for Doug's children, my niece Katrina and my nephew Kenneth. No surprise that they are sometimes spoiled by their Uncle Alex, but he does a good job of keeping it all in balance.

            To give you an idea of how close-knit our extended family is, even my mother-in law Evelyn is close to Alex with whom she shares a love of cooking and gardening.  She enjoys our Christmas celebrations at their completely decorated home so much, saying it’s like a fairyland and she can’t imagine how we would ever be able to do it as well ourselves. My husband Randy enjoys having another brother-in-law and says he doesn’t know how anything would be the same if we have to lose Alex.  My other brother-in-law, Wayne and his partner (who is also named Wayne) Alex shares music, do-it-yourself projects, and love of food.

When I think of how Alex has become central to our family, the hardest part is remembering how important he became to my late father, David.  When my mother passed away in 1994, my parents had been happily married for 42 years.  When his own health started declining, dad still wanted to be as independent as possible so Doug and Alex found him an apartment close to where they lived at the time.  With Doug often traveling for work, Alex was there whenever dad needed any assistance, needed to be accompanied to medical appointments, help with groceries, re-filling prescriptions, or even to have  a light bulb changed.  Dad adored Alex, and Alex certainly cared for him as though he was his own father. Dad was so grateful for Alex's generous spirit; Alex could always get him laughing and feeling better. Many times dad said to me how much it meant to him that Alex made Doug so happy and was such a wonderful person.

Even after my father's death in March 2008, Alex's compassion was central to our family's ability to cope with ou loss. Alex kept us all going, helped to clear out his apartment, and supported us all through our shared grief till we could regain some balance.

Alex and his step-daughter, Katie
          Alex and Doug built a successful pet grooming business, which was the direct result of the long hours that Alex worked and his careful skill.  Over the years, this business employed my nephew Kenneth and his girlfriend Jordan who were unable to find jobs in the depressed job market in California. Kenneth was grateful to his stepfather, Alex, not only for the job but also because it gave them a chance to strengthen their already close bond.

Of course, if Alex is deported the person most directly impacted will be my brother, Doug. What on earth is he to do if that happens?  Even if Doug could leave the United States and move to Venezuela to live with Alex (which is not possible under Venezuelan law), Doug will be leaving behind his only sister (me), his children, his nephews, his career, his business, and his lifelong friends.  If he stays, he loses his loving husband and partner in life to whom he has committed "to death do us part."  Doug and Alex are a happy, loving couple: an example of what marriage should be.  I cannot even imagine their life if this deportation is carried out: does Doug fly back & forth to visit his own husband and hope the Venezuelan government doesn’t refuse him entry or exit?  Venezuela can be a dangerous unfriendly place for anyone known as a homosexual.  Does Doug put himself at risk as a gay man and as an American by traveling to that country?  Do they face a separation of 10 years?  What married couple could survive that separation?  How could our extended family's love and support ever be enough for Doug & Alex if our government tears them apart only because it refuses to recognizes their marriage?

 Our love for Alex has no limit. Alex shares the language, customs and upbringing of his youth with us and spares no effort at celebrating the holidays and birthdays in our family. He is generous to a fault.  He is a wonderful guy to be around and anyone who is around him is better for it.  None of us who know him can imagine what it would be like to live without Alex if he is deported.  

The federal government is tearing apart this American family: my middle aged sibling will lose his spouse, and we all stand with him, including my senior citizen mother-in-law; my husband, his brother and his brother's partner; my grown sons (Alex's nephews); and my niece and nephews (Alex's stepchildren).

As a family we are committed to fighting DOMA and stopping this deportation. 

Nothing is more American than standing up for freedom and equality.  The Fourth of July and what it stands for will remain forever changed for my entire family and myself until DOMA has been repealed or struck down and all DOMA deportations have stopped.

Join Doug & Alex and their many supporters who will protest Alex's deportation on Wednesday July 13 at 7:30 a.m. at San Francisco Immigration Court (120 Montgomery Street). For more information see this Facebook event page.

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