We met in Berlin, Germany in 2004 and fell in love. After living together in a coal-oven heated, 5th floor walk-up apartment in the former East Berlin, we quickly discovered we had found our respective soulmate. Our desire to get married “at home” compelled us to leave Germany. But our definition of “home” was different for the two of us, as Ligeia’s from the U.S. and Mindy’s from Canada. Where exactly would our home be as a bi-national couple?
Unfortunately, this very personal decision was made not by us, but rather by our governments. The United States government did not recognize same-sex marriage, and the Canadian government did. Thus, Ligeia could not sponsor Mindy to live in the States, but alternatively, Mindy was able to sponsor Ligeia. So, we moved to Toronto.
On September 16, 2006, we got married in Niagara Falls, with the ceremony being held in botanical gardens on the Canadian side and the reception hosted in a beautiful New York State Park. Our wedding highlighted and embraced our bi-nationality, sharing and appreciating the beauty of Niagara Falls, a natural wonder that both our countries share.
Unbeknownst to us at the time, a decade earlier U.S. President Bill Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Only when we started to consider moving to the United States, did we encounter how unconstitutional the law was. Ligeia led the fight for her right to pursue happiness in her home country, and sponsor Mindy as her legally married spouse.
Since DOMA defined marriage in the U.S. as strictly between one man and one woman, legal same-sex marriages performed abroad were not recognized. So, we reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and inquire about suing the U.S. federal government and although we were validated that we indeed had a case, the ACLU decided not to take it on because our chances of winning were too low.
Rather than seeking expensive private counsel, we wrote letters to each of the 100 senators asking for their support to repeal DOMA. We added the personal touch of a photo of us, as well as an explanation of our struggle. We didn’t receive a single response. In 2008, we again put pen to paper, contacting all 14 primary election candidates, trying to determine their stance on same-sex marriage. This round of letters resulted in a form letter response from John Edwards, and something brief from John McCain explaining that he forwarded our letter to Immigration and Naturalization Services.
We ended up living in Canada for five years. In this time, we were exposed to a considerable amount of anti-Americanism and sadly, this was a determining factor in our leaving the Great White North.
As a Canadian, Mindy is allowed to claim unofficial “snowbird” status, and live visa-free in the States for 6 months out of each year. To live in the U.S. permanently requires immigrating, which can be pursued in one of 4 ways:
- Show proof of income/investments totaling $1 million.
- Get sponsored by a spouse.
- Get sponsored by an employer willing to jump through hoops to prove that you possess the desired skills, which cannot be found in a U.S. citizen.
- Get sponsored through a school, being sure to pay the hefty “International Student” price tag (upwards of $100,000 for a 4-year degree).
With the Supreme Court’s recent decision that DOMA is indeed unconstitutional, the second option above immediately expanded from only being available to heterosexual couples to being a valid option for us.
We had often fantasized about where we would be and how it would feel to learn that DOMA had been overturned. We imagined a big hug, with tears streaming down our faces, and perhaps even running through the streets cheering. June 28, 2013 was a monumental day for the gay rights movement in the United States, but it was far from our Fall of DOMA Fantasy. Ligeia first learned the news, sitting alone at the desk in her bare-bones office at work, from her inbox full of congratulatory emails from friends. Mindy, on the other hand, had an email from a U.S. immigration lawyer, chomping at the bit to help start the application process.
Throughout the day, we were barely in email contact and our mutual excitement of was poorly echoed by those around us, and paled in comparison to the outpouring of triumph and joy from our American friends on the other side of the world. Only after our workday finished, were we able to embrace and let our tears of happiness roll down our cheeks.
It’s unbelievably comforting to know that when we’re ready, we’ll be able to call the United States of America our home. Our dream of opening a bed and breakfast in Vermont is one big step closer to becoming a reality.
10 thoughts on “Why the Fall of DOMA is Monumental for Us”
Great news girls. I didn’t realize that so many Canadians are so anti American.
This is wonderful news, and I’m so happy for the both of you. I enjoyed reading your article at Globetrottergirls as well. Thanks for saying the things that need to be said. 🙂 xoxo
Mindy & Ligeia
Thanks for reading both posts! We’re living through a momentous time in history for human rights, and it is definitely extremely exciting! Thanks for all the support you’ve given us through the years 🙂
the first thing i thought of when i heard the news out of the U.S. supreme court was that you two would be pleased.
i had dual U.S./Canadian citizenship until Parliament took my Canadian citizenship away just because i wouldn’t give up my U.S. Citizenship. Governments everywhere do stupid things. some government structure actually allow for such mistakes to be corrected. DOMA should have been “corrected” a long time ago. now, if i could get my Canadian citizenship back, i might actually be able to get into Canada.
This is an amazing post. I don’t think straight folks had any idea how significant DOMA was for binational queers. Thanks for sharing your story publicly.
Mindy & Ligeia
Glad you enjoyed the post. We agree that most people were not aware of the power DOMA had over bi-national same-sex couples. Even many of our lesbian friends who were not in a bi-national couple were not aware of the struggle DOMA caused for us. Glad some light has been shed on this issue – and hopefully it will never be an issue again. 🙂
I love your blog, getting to know you as an adult. Congratulations on your marriage to Mindy. I’m happy for you!!!
Mira (Mary Tessman)
Mindy & Ligeia
Thank you Mira for such a wonderful compliment on our blog. When I was a student in your class oh so many years ago I never could have imagined that I would be so happily married one day. Yet here I am. 🙂
Just now saw this post, 6 months after it was written. It is very moving to me to tune in to your feelings about the DOMA struggle. I was surprised and very impressed by your past efforts to fight against DOMA.
Mindy & Ligeia
Thank you for your support. The fact that DOMA is no longer the governing law in the U.S. is such a relief for us. It’s as if the door for us has been unlocked, and when we’re ready, we’ll be able to walk right in. Well, after completing the piles of paperwork, of course! 🙂