Is Love Truly Equal In the Land Where “All Men Are Created Equal?”
Posted By: Adrian Garcia | Feb 25, 2013 at 2:11 am EST
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” proclaimed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. This manifesto penned by our founding fathers may come across as hollow words and empty promises to the thousands of LGBT bi-national couples who have been torn apart by the DOMA law enacted in 1996. Under DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government cannot legally recognize same-sex relationships even if these couples are legally wed in states which currently grant same-sex marriage licenses. The harsh reality is that bi-national same-sex couples are prevented, under the current law, from sponsoring their spouses for U.S. citizenship, as heterosexual people are routinely allowed to do for their foreign-born spouses.
The love story of Laurie & Caroline Hart highlights the plight of thousands of bi-national same-sex couples who are unfairly victimized by this law for no other reason than because they are in love with someone of the same-sex. Laurie, an American citizen, and Caroline Hart, a British citizen, have been fighting for their piece of the American dream since their marriage in Massachusetts on July 29th 2006. They have been forced to fly back and forth between their homes in Portsmouth, England and Somerset, Massachusetts, because Caroline’s visitor’s Visa only allows her to stay in the U.S. for six months at a time. Caroline’s frequent visits have not gone unnoticed by U.S. immigration officials, who routinely detain and interrogate her. Recounting her frequent interrogations, Caroline told us
They have both tried in vain to get the attention of local and congressional leaders to help them. Speaking of their efforts to contact local leaders, Laurie and Caroline told us
This law continues to inflict an unnecessary emotional and financial stress on them. They have never had a chance to know what it’s like to have a stable life together over the last 8 years, without the worry of overstaying their visits. To date, the financial toll the frequent traveling has cost the couple well over $100,000. They are both currently living together in Somerset, MA, along with Caroline’s son who is 11 years old. At the moment, the fate of Caroline and her son hang in the balance as they await the Supreme court ruling in June. If they were to leave the U.S. today, they would most likely not be allowed back for a few years, as their Visa’s have been recently denied. “The clock is ticking but we hope before time runs out the Supreme Court will come back with the right decision!” remarked Caroline.
Caroline is hopeful that Friday evening’s brief, filed by the Obama administration urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the DOMA, is a hopeful sign of a positive outcome come June, when the court makes its landmark ruling. She said
Read their beautiful love story below as told by Caroline Hart:
On October 4th 2005 I made the journey from London to Boston so that at last Laurie and I could meet face to face, we were both so incredibly excited waiting for that moment I would walk through the arrival doors at Logan Airport and we would see each other and be able to hold each other, really connecting for the first time! The moment came and it was incredible, we hugged and kissed, it was the most amazing time of our lives and one we never ever forget. We spent 8 wonderful days together which only went to prove just how much we loved one another, the night before I had to leave we decided we wanted to commit to each other, we exchanged rings and celebrated with a bottle of champagne. It was a huge mixture of elation and sadness knowing that we wanted one another forever but that I had to leave tomorrow.
Our parting was terrible but it only made us realize how hard we had to work to make sure we could be together all the time. That time came in November 2005, I was luckily able to organize working from wherever I was, so I headed back to Laurie but we both had family commitments and had to divide our time more equally. In January 2006 Laurie gave up her job in the medical field so that we could start a grueling bi-weekly travel plan, all so we could be together and to see our families.
We wanted to make our relationship “official” we wanted to show how much we loved each other so on July 29th 2006 Laurie and I got married in Massachusetts, we had a beautiful Hawaiian style wedding which our 3 sons took part in and all our USA family and friends attended. One of our close friends officiated the ceremony and I sung “Both Sides Now” to Laurie as that was one of her favorite songs. We also wanted to include our UK family and friends, so we had another ceremony in Midhurst England on August 18th 2006, again our 3 sons took part walking us down the aisle we had a fantastic celebration that went on long into the night. With our wedding vows exchanged both sides of the pond what more could we do to proclaim our love and commitment to one another! We spent our honeymoon on the big island of Hawaii, this was such a deeply loving time, it could not have been better in any way, the only bad thing was having to go back to reality!
As I was a photographer in the UK and Laurie had been a keen amateur we decided to establish the business in the USA so that this would enable Laurie and I to maintain a flexible lifestyle so that we could keep up the extreme travel commitments. We did the bi-weekly travel for 18 months, during this time Laurie, myself and my 2 sons traveled to India following a fundraising campaign I had headed up for tsunami relief. We had raised enough money to rebuild a tsunami hit school in the Tamil Nadu region and had been invited for the official inauguration of the school; it was an extraordinary trip that remains imbedded in all our minds and makes us feel so grateful for all that we do have.
After 18 months of bi-weekly travel we had drained not only our finances but ourselves too, we had to make a new plan. We decided to commit to buying a home in the USA together and to start the process of establishing our life and business in one place. It was so good to call just one place home after all this time spent traveling, we even added a dog and cat into the fold too! In addition to our decision around this time Laurie’s dad also had a massive heart attack followed shortly by a severe stroke which left him almost totally incapacitated. Of course Laurie wanted to be very close at hand at all times, especially as her mother had already passed away and that she is now the healthcare proxy and power of attorney, so this was another reason for us to be based in the USA over the UK.
Laurie adds: “As an American Citizen I’m deeply saddened and disappointed in my country that is known to many others as the Land of the Free. I feel nothing but trapped by the law that is so lawfully wrong!
My finances have diminished due to legal fees fighting for something I should already have. EQUAL RIGHTS! I’ve lost my health insurance, could lose my home and still try to maintain my photography business with my head held high. Imagine being a Wedding Photographer and your wedding means nothing to a country that you were born in! It feels like I’m in this bad dream and can’t wake up. But I was ALWAYS taught, if you believe in it then fight for it! So this is why I REFUSE TO CHOOSE!”
Over the years that we have been together we have come through USA Immigration too many times to count and mainly when we have travelled together and we were always questioned about my reason for being in the USA so much and it always made traveling very stressful, I always felt like a criminal when in actual fact all I was doing was traveling with my spouse! But whenever I travelled back to the UK by myself when I returned to the USA I almost always got sent down to be interrogated, sometimes for hours. One time in particular Laurie so was waiting for me and when I finally came through she was in tears thinking the worst. We held on to each other so tightly frightened that letting go we would be torn apart.
We have now been married almost 7 years and our love has only grown deeper and stronger every day and every year, there is not a day that goes by that we don’t appreciate finding this magical relationship of ours and we hold on to it for dear life. At the moment we are facing such a critical time, everything hangs in the balance until the result of the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA, we are fighting in every way possible to show support to strike down DOMA. We want and deserve our marriage to be recognized just like any other, we hope that in June we will be celebrating the right result and that Laurie will be able to apply for a green card for me her wife and that we won’t have to worry about our future again!
To Find Out More about DOMA and other Couples fighting this same discrimination visit the DOMA Project.org