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I�m Newly-Married and Very Angry at U.S. Marriage and Immigration Laws: OpEd

I�m Newly-Married and Very Angry at U.S. Marriage and Immigration Laws: OpEd

Judy Rickard and her partner Karin are married and in love but since they are lesbians and one is from America and the other from Great Britain, American Federal law does not recognize their marriage. Judy chronicles her struggles as part of a binational lesbian couple in her book Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law. Here is part of her story...

This should be the happiest time in my life. I just got married to the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with. But getting married won’t make it all rose petals and white picket fence days. It may mean I have to leave the country with my wife. That sounds like it doesn’t make sense – and it doesn’t.

Karin is not an American citizen. She is a woman. I am an American citizen. I am a woman. Karin is a citizen of Great Britain. And even though we are permanent partners, now married, U.S. law considers us legal strangers. WTF? Legal strangers? We are spouses, but Uncle Sam won’t say so in order for me to sponsor my wife for immigration so we can be here together.

When you find the one you want to share your life with, you feel like settling down, don't you? I have for a long time, so we finally went ahead and did it. We had been told for years it would be a red flag to ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But without being married, Karin is still subjected to questioning by uniformed ICE agents in their back room – a cell of sorts – and detained for hours before she is given the right to visit me for a few months at a time. That’s not fun.

I’m 63. Karin will soon turn 71. We don’t want to waste any more time, so we went to Vermont and tied the knot. But because of DOMA, Defense of Marriage Act, the U.S. government will not consider us spouses because we are not “one man and one woman”.

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I’m not going to let DOMA ruin my life. I’m going to fight for my right to be with my wife – here, in my country. I will explore all legal ways to keep us together, to avoid being torn apart from Karin and torn apart from family and friends in America.

President Obama recognized the problem this year and stated that DOMA should not be defended in court because it is not constitutional. Federal courts will be deciding on this issue. Waiting for the courts takes time, but a DOMA decision in our favor (and that of an estimated 36,000 families in our same situation) would be a victory.

In my state, Prop. 8 awaits a final legal decision. Yet if Karin and I could marry in California, DOMA trumps a state wedding and we are back to square one.

I need my President to protect me and keep me safe in my own country. Now! An Executive Order from him on LGBT binational couples would give us quick relief.

Congress is moving, but it can be slower than the courts. I am proud of the Senators lead by John Kerry and the Representatives lead by Zoe Lofgren who wrote to federal leaders on our behalf.

I continue to be proud of Senator Patrick Leahy and Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Mike Honda. Their actions for our plight have brought UAFA, Uniting American Families Act, back to both houses. RFA, Reuniting Families Act (which includes UAFA), will be re-introduced as well. And we can always hope that a truly comprehensive immigration reform bill will make it through – one that includes LGBT binational couples in our situation. More Senators and Representatives are taking up the fight now and that makes me happy. But we are nowhere near a victory lap…

I wrote a book about our story and the stories of several other same-sex binational families, published by Findhorn Press. It's Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law. It’s unique. It’s a handbook for those who face this issue and those who want to help us. It gives stories, resources, media sites, a how-to help section and more.

Proceeds from the book benefit three organizations working on our issue. Order from Findhorn Press at and benefit Immigration Equality, (code IEAF15); Out4Immigration (code OUT416); or Love Exiles (code LOEX17) as $4 of your order goes to your designated group. You can also order at bookstores or other online sites. All sales benefit these groups and their work.

Thanks! Karin and I and so many others appreciate your help to keep us together!
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