Op-ed: When U.S. Customs Forces My Wife Into the Closet
My partner and I have been together for six years. I’m an American, and she's German. In 2009 in Germany, we were joined in a civil union, which means we are excluded from several laws pertaining to adoption and some tax breaks. However, I was able to attain a visa and remain in Germany as a legal resident.
We’ve both made sacrifices in order to build a life together. While we would like someday to retire to the United States, our German union isn't recognized. Even if we were to marry in one of the 12 states that have legalized same-sex marriage, the federal government would not allow me to sponsor my partner for a green card or visa. This is a privilege available only to heterosexual married couples, along with many other rights.
As a lesbian married couple our rights are limited or even nonexistent in many countries around the world. In Russia, LGBT activists are jailed for demanding their rights. Laws in the Middle East would allow a court to inflict the death penalty for being gay or lesbian. In my own home country, my partner would be deported if she were to live here, regardless of our union status in Germany.
In August of this year, I will have to return to the U.S. for work and to settle a home in Florida. My partner will be permitted to visit me for 90 days, the same time allotted a tourist. Whenever my partner is asked by U.S. immigration why she’s coming into the country, she tells them she’s visiting a friend. Certainly, if she were to say she’s coming to see her “wife,” it would raise a red flag, and she could be denied entry.
We have fought too hard and long to slip back into the closet.
LOIS BROMFIELD is a comedian and television writer and producer. WHAT DO YOU PLAN TO DO, LARGE OR SMALL, ON THE DAY OF DECISION? Send us an essay about how you plan to mark that day and what it will mean to you personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.