This piece was written by Martha McDevitt-Pugh, Founder and Chair of Love Exiles. It originally appeared on the Love Exiles blog.
Love Exiles from the United States of America are looking at the light at the end of a long tunnel, with the likely ending of DOMA. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was a major obstacle to US LGBT citizens with foreign partners who wanted to live in the United States. With President Obama declaring that he will not defend the Defense of Marriage Act because it discriminates against LGBT families, many Love Exiles with legal spouses are daring to think they will be able to return to the US.
Love Exiles are binational LGBT couples who do not have the freedom to live in either or both countries of citizenship of the partners. The Netherlands is home to many Love Exiles from the United States, living here with their Dutch or European partner because it is possible here but not in the US. Immigration law in the United States recognizes only heterosexual marriages – US citizens who want to sponsor their partner to live with them in the United States must marry.
DOMA has stood in the way of immigration reform for LGBT families. DOMA has meant that each state in the nation chooses whether the institution of marriage can be opened to LGBT couples – and whether that state recognizes the legal union formed between two people of the same sex in other states or abroad. Getting rid of DOMA will open the way for US immigration law to acknowledge marriages between binational same-sex couples.
The "tipping point" in the demise of DOMA seems to be Edith Winsor’s lawsuit. When her Dutch-born wife Thea Spyer died, after a partnership spanning 44 years, the government sent Edith a large tax bill for Thea’s part of their shared property. Edith went to court demanding their relationship be recognized as family, in which case the state would not tax her. On reviewing the case, Obama recognized blatant anti-gay discrimination and announced he was not willing to defend DOMA.
Married Love Exiles are now full of hope that they will be able to return to their country and their families, bringing their foreign partner with them. People are asking the Love Exiles Foundation questions like “When can we go home?” “Can I sue for a Green Card?”
The Love Exiles Foundation was set up in 2002 in Amsterdam in the first place to let Love Exiles know they are not alone, and to influence US lawmakers to stop discriminating against LGBT families in US immigration law. There are Love Exiles groups in Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Germany and the Netherlands.
Founder and Chair Martha McDevitt-Pugh is happy with the probable demise of DOMA. "But don’t forget, there are only 5 States in the US where LGBT people can marry. If one of the partners lives in Florida, and the other in say, Kenya, they cannot marry and they are still faced with an immigration law that will not accommodate them. We have to change the immigration law to recognize permanent partners, not just spouses."