Saturday, May 07, 2011

Victims of DOMA and the American Perception of It or Lack Thereof

Guest post by Graham Adams, Same Sex Bi-National Alliance -- written from exile in the UK.

It is estimated that there are around 30,000 same sex bi-national couples living in the United States. Some resources suggest it’s closer to 40,000. In truth there is probably many more than both estimates due to the fact that many couples are living in hiding, too afraid to confide in their closest friends and in some cases, their families, in fear of being discovered by immigration authorities!

Recent immigration cases have swept the media into a frenzy, with individual cases appearing on the news, on radio, in newspapers and magazines and on social networking sites in abundance. The plight of same sex bi-nationals finally appears to be making headlines. The very idea of deporting one half of a loving, committed couple seems barbaric to most people. In truth, the vast majority of Americans are not even aware that GLBT citizens cannot sponsor their partners for citizenship!

This media coverage is indeed a good thing. It raises awareness and highlights the unbelievable hardships that same sex bi-nationals are forced to endure! We’re not merely talking about boyfriends and girlfriends here, we’re talking about couples who have legally pledged their love for one another by means of either a marriage or a civil union - a legally binding contract under the eyes of the State law in which the contract was issued.

America finally seems to be waking up and taking notice of these cases! And not before time!

However, there is another aspect of same sex bi-nationals relationships that mainstream America does not see! One that is not publicized in the media via the courts! One that would, if publicized, create even more empathy from the American people.

Each year, many thousands of Americans are forced to leave their country and their families to embark on a self imposed exile, just to be with their loved ones. Many more are forced to endure long distance relationships with their spouses because they cannot be together in either country! The agonizing yet all too painful truth of this matter is that these couples have not been fortunate enough to be able to remain in the US while lawmakers try to determine the future of DOMA or the ambiguity otherwise known as marriage, and how it affects same sex couples.

No one knows the exact figures of how many Americans are forced to live in exile because once they have left America’s shores, they are no longer an American problem! This, unfortunately, is a major issue and needs to be addressed.

Life as a bi-national couple living in the US can be unbearable with the constant threat of deportation or separation looming like a harbinger of death. But fortunately, many couples in the US have some kind of support structure, be it from family, friends, lawmakers, civil rights groups, legal representatives or a mixture of all. And that is how it should be!

Unfortunately, in most cases, that cannot be said for Americans in bi-nationals relationships living in exile who have been forced to leave their families and friends and everything they have ever known. Exiled couples do not get the exposure they need! Our stories are not mainstream. The American public, on the whole, does not even know we exist! The same can be said for couples who have already be torn apart and now live in different countries - their relationships reduced to one of skype, emails, telephone calls and occasional visits!

Keeping families together is the absolute priority and I am thankful that couples in America are now managing to highlight the plight of all bi-nationals, and that those facing deportation are managing to avoid the soul shattering procedure any way they can!

Same sex marriage is media “gold” at the moment and all recent stories of bi-nationals facing deportation have received an abundance of media attention. I wish the same could be said for the many thousands of couples living apart or in exile, for at times, it feels like we are the forgotten victims of DOMA, forced to endure the misery apart from our spouses, families, friends, homes and country!


Carrie said...

Excellent piece, thank you for speaking out for us!

Chris said...

And also to mention, there are those who for a whole host of reasons are couples comprised of an undocumented immigrants and American citizens. No cakewalk there, either. When people talk about so-called "illegals", it would do them well to consider that some of them are spouses of US citizens with no recourse to come out of the shadows.