Tuesday, March 20, 2012
by Teva Alexander
In 2005, I was an American doing an internship in Italy when I met my partner Ido, an Israeli, also studying in Italy. We connected immediately. When my family came to visit me in Italy, they too fell in love with him. I was 25 years old and my life seemed so good. Everything was coming together for me – love and a career. Ido and I spoke about the future and him coming to America to live with me when our studies were complete. But as our plans to be together in America started to take shape, that’s when we met the realities of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the wall it imposes on same-sex binational couples like me and Ido.
The day I learned that I had no right as a US citizen to bring the person I loved home with me to my country is a day I will never forget. My heart dropped from my chest. Suddenly I felt as if I had no country. It was unfathomable that I had worked so hard – I paid taxes, I studied, I had never been in trouble with the law. Yet I was - and am - being punished. My Mum was in shock when we spoke about it and I told her the decision I had to make, one that I will never regret. I stayed with my partner illegally in Italy. That was the choice I was given: Love or Country. I chose my partner.
After those few years, however, I ultimately decided I needed to continue my career. I returned home to America only to lose job after job during the financial meltdown. Financially I was ruined; my student loans were knocking at my door and the roof felt as if it was caving in. There was nothing I could do. Ido and I spent these years meeting and parting, painful goodbyes and hurt that I wish on no one. When an opportunity arose for me to move to Israel, I took it. It meant that I’d have a country both my partner & I could live in.
Israel is one of the more than 20 countries in the world that allow you to sponsor your same-sex partner. I remained in Israel as my partner continued his studies in Italy. I was closer to him than I had been in years. A 3-hour flight and we could be near each other. Italy, like America, has the same non-recognition of same-sex partnerships, but I could come to Italy for 3-month intervals under a “tourist visa”.
In the winter of 2011 I made an emergency trip back to the United States. My Mum was diagnosed with a very serious type of leukemia. As a family, all my siblings rushed to her bedside. Ido flew in also; he is a huge part of our family. He stayed 3 weeks and had to return to Italy. For the following 8 months I remained in the United States with my mother. Ido and I cancelled a wedding we planned in Sept. 2011 in Israel. Last summer, Ido again returned to the States to stay with us. He brought much joy to my family during those tough times.
In August my Mum passed away. Her wish was for me and Ido to marry and be happy, but soon we had to separate again. His 3-month tourist visa was up and his studies awaited him in Italy. I cannot stress how difficult this time has been. We are so tired of saying goodbye.
We remain apart, except when we can meet months at a time with several months apart between visits. We have spent as many as 8 and 9 months apart. Our financial and emotional losses are too great to put in words. DOMA and the lack of rights of LGBT Americans to sponsor our foreign partner do so much damage to families. My family has no problem with whom I love. How can the U.S. government decide what is permissible in this regard? Ido and I are yet another example of what it means to be united by love, divided by law. I thought human rights are a policy of the United States, yet my human rights and those of Ido feel nonexistent.
It’s time for the U.S. government to do something to stop this policy against same-sex binational couples. It’s time to repeal DOMA, so the more than 36,000 couples like us can have the same rights as heterosexual Americans with foreign spouses.