|Christopher and Arthur fight a technicality that keeps them apart, despite their 14-year relationship|
An update from Christopher Joseph whose heart-breaking story of a 10,000 mile separation from his partner, Arthur, was posted here on April 10, 2011. Christopher and Arthur met and fell in love in the United States 14 years ago, but following incorrect advice from an attorney, Christopher departed the U.S. to return to Australia after having overstayed his visa by 13 months. As he later learned, this meant that he would be barred from returning to the U.S. for 10 year, or until 2019. Each year, countless lesbian and gay binational couples are separated by the 5 or 10 year overstay bars. Christopher has been trying to get back to the U.S. begging elected officials and Consular officers for help. All his efforts, as he notes below, have failed.
It seems our quest for a path to return to the United States has failed on all accounts. While I have been here in Australia I have sought help through the US Consulate without success. Their response has been that it didn't matter why I overstayed my visa; even though I may not have been at fault, the ten year entry ban would be enforced with no chance for any appeal. The Consulate Officer was quite belligerent in writing, so much so that it felt that they were enjoying denying me any help. Meanwhile Arthur had been getting assistance with a representative of Marriage Equality who arranged a meeting with our U.S. Senator back home; but again, no success. The Senator would not call the Consulate on our behalf even though his staff indicated to us that he believed he was supportive of our plight. All other avenues have fallen flat and we have been left staring at locked doors. We have one final act seeking help with another Senator but judging by past efforts, we don't hold much chance of anything positive coming forth.
We are devoted to each other and our love for one another will not perish even though it seems we cannot spend our lives together. As I said in my letter to our Senator, I spent 33 years of meeting people and not finding my Mr. Right until I found my Arthur and he found me. I believed love was never going to find me but it did and no lawmaker, cetainly those who have never met us but yet still believe they can decide our fate, will ever keep us from the love we share. Arthur has spoken about coming to Australia, a country that doesn't allow same sex marriage but does allow same sex partner immigration. In that sense the U.S. could learn a few things from what other countries are doing. American politicians tell the world that "all men are created equal" and generously uses the word "freedom" as though it is something they can export by example. That is far from the truth as far as we are concerned. Arthur has a stable home and family life in the U.S. and I would never want to break that up. We both live in hope that one day soon, those who make these laws decide to change them and we would never want anybody to go throught the pain we now have to endure. Whether or not this is survivable only time will tell. At the moment I don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I believe the tunnel end is a rock wall.
Without the Defense of Marriage Act we would actually have a chance to overcome this 10-year bar. Arthur and I could marry (we'd have to fly to a third country to do it, like Canada) and then apply for me to immigrate to the U.S. Through that process, I could apply for a waiver on the basis of my marriage to a U.S. citizen, if I could prove that it would cause extreme hardship to Arthur if I were unable to immigrate before 2019. Knowing the hardship we have experienced for the past two years, I hardly think it would be difficult to explain that concept to Consular Officer. Of course none of this should have ever happened. If we had married in 2009 and Arthur had been able to petition for a "green card" for me, my story would have been just as simple and straightforward as that of any straight binational couple. DOMA caused this disaster, perhaps these are its unintended consequences, who knows? It doesn't matter. There are many lesbian and gay couples whose lives have been ruined because of DOMA and the 10-year bar on returning. A broken immigration system and a cruel, discriminatory anti-gay marriage law have caused so much sorrow.
If by chance you are a law maker and are reading this, we both hope you never have to be apart from those you love and who love you. Your decisions, or lack thereof, are destroying true families and you are destroying love. The agony we feel is so far the worst feeling we have ever encountered. In some ways, losing a loved one may be an easier thing to deal with for there is closure. With Arthur and I, all I do is wonder how he is and how hard it is when he needs my help.
DOMA needs to end. We need to have full equality, dignity and respect for all LGBT families. Foot dragging by any politician on this issue means more families torn apart, more lives destroyed and continued second-class citizenship for all lesbian and gay Americans.