Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Our Story: Sharlene & Marcela

Tired of Second-Class Status, American Woman Wants the Option to Live Back Home
with Chilean Partner

It’s ironic, somewhat. I met my ex-girlfriend in Venezuela studying abroad on a scholarship from the State Department designed to encourage foreign travel. One of my good friends I made on that trip is living now in the U.S. with her Venezuelan husband. I picked the wrong gender I guess. For political and economic reasons, my girlfriend could never get a visa to come visit me in the U.S., so we maintained a long-term relationship for several years. Flights to South America aren’t cheap. Distant love isn’t easy.

Four years ago I was determined not to fall in love with a Chilena when I arrived in Santiago. I was resolute. I didn’t want to consider another binational, same-gender relationship looking at it rationally. It was impossibly difficult the first time, and I didn’t come to Chile to stay. Two years here for grad school, and then I’d come home or go to another country. Nice ‘n easy.

Well I stood no chance. I had never believed in love at first sight until it happened to me. I had to meet this woman! We have recently celebrated our third anniversary, and we have plans to get married in Argentina next year. I have residency in Chile now, which lasts for five years. Fortunately, Marcela was able to get a visa to come to the States, and has met most of my huge family. They love her almost as much as I do.

Sharlene and Marcela have been together three years and live in Chile. They would like the option of being able to return to live in the United States, but DOMA and the lack of equal immigration rights keep them in exile.

The problem? With DOMA in place, everything is so uncertain and costly. Firstly, her travel visa doesn’t permit employment. Her time with me at home is unpaid, and Chilean chefs aren’t compensated what they’re worth. Flying back and forth to see my friends and family at home, while living and working most of the year far away at the bottom of the world has a price tag that I can pay. But, can we have children? Where will we live? Can I afford to maintain two homes? What about education, insurance, stability? Home-school? Will I find the time? Do I want to have my children live far away from my hometown forever? These questions keep me up at night, quite literally. It’s also very sad to feel second-class, someone lesser. Well, that is until April 15 rolls around, and then I’m just as important as everyone else! All right, I’ll knock off the sarcasm.

I am very pleased with my life, but if DOMA were undone, things would be easier and fairer for me and many other people. The inclusion of same-sex binational couples in Comprehensive Immigration Reform would also give us the option to live my home country.

Are you a same-sex binational couple?  Do you have families / friends affected by this issue?  Please contact us at if you are interested in sharing your story.

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