Family / Guest blog posts / Life / News & Politics

Living in Exile

LawfullyWeddedLife

Guest author Rebecca Berry writes of her life  as a London-based US expat at Open your eyes.  Hers is the fifth in our ongoing Wednesday series, Lawfully Wedded Life. Do you have a story to tell about marriage, marriage equality, or the lack thereof? Submit yours here. We’ll be running the series through the SCOTUS marriage equality decision(s), expected late June 2013.

 

All of us know that love tends to find you when you least expect it. I would never have thought that for me it would come in the form of a Lithuanian girl in small town Wisconsin. Our story starts when we were both twenty years old working at a family restaurant in a tourist town. Neither of us knew what would happen at the end of that summer when we both returned to our respective universities but we lived each day to the fullest. At the end of that summer we had a tearful goodbye unsure of where our futures would lead.

Last month Lina and I celebrated our five year wedding anniversary. We had a Civil Partnership in London, England in a small ceremony with our close friends. Lina and I are a binational couple and due to the inequalities in the United States federal laws it wasn’t possible for Lina and I to be together in the USA. I was forced to make the decision to leave the only place that I have called home or to leave the woman I love. After leaving college in I applied for a student work visa and moved to London. When I moved to the UK I was sure that I would be here less than five years. I had faith that the American people and government would catch up with much of the rest of the world and grant equal rights to same-sex couples. This summer I will have been in the UK for six years.

Having a Civil Partnership in the UK grants a person equal rights in all areas except a ceremony cannot be held in a church. It’s looking like soon same-sex marriage will also be legal and we could apply to have our civil partnership transferred to be a marriage. Having the right to have a Civil Partnership granted me the ability to immigrate to the UK. When we have children, both of our names will be on the birth certificate without jumping through any extra hoops or going through any adoption procedures.

A couple of years ago I stumbled upon the term ‘exile’ in relation to binational same-sex couples. Before then although it was clear that I was living abroad due to discrimination I hadn’t actually thought about the fact that I was forced to live in exile. It’s astounding that I, an American born and raised, am currently living in exile due to my sexual orientation.

Recently the need for equality for same-sex couples in immigration has been in the national news. It has made us beyond happy that this issue is finally brought to the forefront in the LGBT community as well as to the US on the whole. There are so many couples torn apart or living with the fear of deportation because of the lack of federal acknowledgment of LGBT rights. There are couples like us living in exile throughout the world, thousands of Americans forced to leave their county because of discrimination and prejudice.

Living thousands of miles and an ocean away from home has been difficult. Lina and I will soon be ready to have children and expand our family. The thought that my parents may only be able to see my children once or twice a year is heartbreaking for me.

In America and most countries around the world a couple’s rights are earned through the legal act of marriage. These rights may include benefits, property rights, ability to make healthcare decisions, rights as a non-biological parent, or right to immigration status in the country of your partner. Some American states have granted equal rights to LGBT couples through marriage or domestic partnerships but all of this is still at a state level. America needs federal laws which support same-sex couples. As long as marriage is the vessel for so many important rights the fight for same-sex marriage needs to be a huge part of our activism as a community.

In our family although marriage is a romantic statement we made to each other and to show the world our love, Marriage is first and foremost the opportunity which gave us equal rights and the ability to be together.

 

For more information and resources about immigration equality for the LGBT community visit http://immigrationequality.org/

[FEATURED PHOTO FROM INCURABLE_HIPPIE’S FLICKR STREAM.]

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  1. Happy Anniversary!

    When we relocated to the UK from the US in 1999, we were lucky. My partner was an Italian citizen and member of the EU. If we had been a straight couple, they would not have extended me a visa unless we were married. But because we could not get married, they gave me a visa because they would not double discriminate. That never would have happened in the US! They would have sent us packing.

    Our wedding was in 2001 in London, but I’ll tell you that there were a couple of venues that would not have us because we were a same-sex couple.

    Then when it came to making babies in the UK, we ran into other fun obstacles. We wanted to use a sperm bank in the US because, at the time, the US banks provided much more information about donors. Turned out, there was only one bank in all of the US that met the UK’s requirements for privacy terms. At least there was one, right?

    Ultimately, we’ve been able to live where we want and have babies, so we are happy while we wait for full equality in the US. But this post reminds me of all the stops and starts and hoops, and I wish you all the best and a quick return from exile!

    • Thank you Deborah! I am constantly counting our blessings that we were born when we were and that we had the opportunity to move to the UK and make our lives here together. I am also really happy that people are speaking up because there are so many couples in the same situation as you and me here in the UK! Thanks again and fingers crossed!

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