By Caroline Hart
Originally published on Advocate.com March 25 2013 4:00 AM ET
Laurie and I first met in August 2005, through the online lesbian dating agency called The Pink Sofa. We shared an instant bond, and shared all our most intimate thoughts, it was like we had known each other forever. Even though Laurie was from the USA and I was from England it didn’t deter us, we believed that if we were meant to be together somehow we would find a way. Every possible moment we could spare was spent sending IMs and emails or talking on the phone, it might sound crazy to some but we actually fell in love without ever seeing each other in person.
On October 4, 2005 I made the journey from London to Boston to meet Laurie for the first time. The moment came and it was euphoric, we hugged and kissed, it was the most amazing time of our lives. We spent eight wonderful days and nights 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 and we didn’t know when we would be able to be together again.
Our parting was terrible; it felt like our hearts were being torn right out as we actually said our goodbyes. Being apart only made us realize just how hard we had to work to make sure we could be together all the time. 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.
Laurie and I got married in Massachusetts on July 29, 2006, with a beautiful Hawaiian-style wedding. Our three sons took part in it, and all of our American family and friends attended. Days later we flew to the U.K. with our sons, for our British wedding. We had another ceremony in Midhurst England on August 18, 2006. But while we had married twice our marriage was still not recognized by the American government, meaning that Laurie could not sponsor me as a spouse.
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 U.S. together and to start the process of establishing our life and photography business in one place. Our decision was only solidified after Laurie's father had a massive heart attack followed shortly by a severe stroke which left him almost totally incapacitated.
During our relationship, we have come through U.S. Customs countless times. And every time, I'm asked why I'm visiting the United States, despite having a Massachusetts marriage license! If I travel alone, I'm often treated like a criminal when re-entering the country. I'm typically interrogated, sometimes for hours. One time in particular, Laurie was waiting for me for what seemed like forever. When I finally got to her, she was in tears thinking the worst. We held on to each other so tightly, frightened that letting go we would be torn apart.
Together we sought advice on immigration and we were told to find another avenue to obtain a visa for myself. Laurie was even told on more than one occasion that she should consider leaving her home country. But Laurie says she is disappointed in her country, the so-called Land of the Free. "I feel nothing but trapped by the law that is so lawfully wrong," Laurie says. "My finances have diminished due to legal fees fighting for something I should already have—equal rights! I could even lose my home if DOMA isn’t repealed and still I try to maintain my photography business with my head held high. Imagine being a wedding photographer, and your wedding means nothing to the 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, that if you believe in something, then fight for it! So this is why I refuse to choose."
Our one and only hope now is that DOMA will be struck down, so we set on a new plan of action we jumped full steam ahead to fight this law. With the help of our friends and family, we are putting ourselves on the battlefield, and miraculously, we have garnered massive support from celebrities, including Sharon Stone. This fight is bringing people together who want to be the right side of history and equality.
Our full list of supporters include:
Congressman Jerry Nadler
Billie Jean King
After almost seven years of marriage our love has only grown deeper and stronger each day. As we face such a critical time, everything hangs in the balance until the result of the Supreme Court's ruling on DOMA. We want and deserve our marriage to be recognized just like any other, and we hope that in June we will be celebrating the right result in the repeal of DOMA. Then, and only then, will we have our happily ever after.
CAROLINE HART is a photographer and activist.