One Long Distance Couple Waiting for Gay Marriage To Be Legal Tells Their Story
From New York to Canada and back again for years.
There are things you don't really consider when you fall in love with a man who is a Canadian citizen who is in the U.S. on a work visa. Once the visa is up, has to go back to Canada. Indefinitely.
That was the case for Stuart and I—we met in January 2006, fell in love fast, moved in together within a few months and have been together ever since. Our story, however, is not that linear. By December 2007 (23 months later), his work visa was expiring and he had to leave the U.S. He got a job in Canada and moved back there—not the close part of Canada. Nothing like Toronto. It was west-coast Canada—long $700 plane flights with many layovers and a three hour time difference.
This began an epic seven year stretch known as the long distance relationship.
With 3,000 miles between us, we really only saw each other every four to eight weeks, roughly, 15-20 percent of the year. Stuart and I had almost separate lives and separate homes and our relationship was a destination. When we came together it was like “vacation time” where you try to get in as much quality time as you can before it’s time for wheels up/back home. Extra long sleep-ins with as much cuddle time as possible were mandatory to make up for the fact that we were rarely together.
There was always an end game to be together, we just didn’t know when that was.
In February 2009, I got down on one knee to propose to Stuart while our favorite Frank Sinatra song, "Come Fly with Me" was playing. It’s our favorite because it resembles our long distance relationship. He said yes. We were engaged for over five years before we got married. We didn’t have what I would call a long engagement. It was more of an indefinite engagement. We were waiting for gay marriage to become legal in the United States.
At the time, the United States Federal Government did not recognize gay marriage. Sure, some states did allow it, but those marriages were not recognized under the Federal Government. While that doesn’t sound like the biggest deal, Stuart is a Canadian citizen and needed a green card in order to come and live in the U.S. Back then, U.S. immigration laws did not pertain to same-sex marriages, whereby a U.S. Citizen marries a non-US citizen and the non-U.S. citizen gets a green card and can stay in the U.S. That was not a legal right given to someone marrying into a same-sex marriage. So we became engaged in 2009, and waited four-and-a-half years before it was federally legal for us to marry.
As a result of a Supreme Court case ruling on June 26, 2013, same-sex marriage became legal on a federal level. Which meant Stuart and I could get married and he could get a green card and we could be reunited. Thus began the process to “apply” to get married, aka, U.S. Immigration!
In December 2013, Stuart and I applied for a Fiancé Visa. It’s basically pulling a huge packet of information together that shows your intent to marry. You have to prove that you are a legitimate couple. For me, it was actually a relationship affirming process, because we had to write up official statements describing why we wanted to marry, detailing important points in our relationship, listing names of family, addresses of where we lived, financial records, health records—all things to prove that we were a real couple and Stuart wasn’t an anarchist or someone trying to get onto welfare or take advantage of our country’s seriously defunct healthcare system. We had to gather flight receipts, put together a photo album of the past eight years and get references from friends on the validity of our relationship. It was like applying to college all over again. Except, this was for marriage.
In May of 2014 Stuart was called to the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver for his immigration interview. The examiner was before him with the photo album we had submitted and all the paperwork that we had sent. It was all there—the examiner thumbed through the pictures of us at Christmas in Canada, my nephew’s first Holy Communion in Boston (which Stuart took a red eye flight to and changed into a suit in the airport bathroom), a family dinner in Montauk with my grandma Mable, our friend Erica and Matt’s Wedding in Miami, pictures with our dog who had died in 2011, pictures of the new dog we got in 2012. Our life together was one big pile of pages on a desk. We were approved.
Stuart moved to New York one week later, in early June 2014, and then we got married one week later on June 13, 2014. It was kind of an immigration shotgun wedding. I had one week to find a suit and crash diet. We ran down to City Hall in New York City and got married before the government changed their minds.
It was just Stuart and I, a few friends, and a simple meal after. No first dance, no wedding cake, no speeches. It was perfect. It was special. It was real. It was well deserved. So many people asked, “But don’t you want a big wedding with family and friends?” Honestly, no. We spent so many years living our lives without each other, that on our wedding day, I only wanted to share it with him. It was as intimate as a wedding could be.
About nine months later, Stuart got his green card, which felt like a triumph. It felt like, for once, we were just a normal couple, who happened to live together. We just celebrated our two-year wedding anniversary—and I reflect in gratitude on all it took to get us here. It was all worth it. On our anniversary, we woke up in the same bed, we didn’t have to “schedule a face-time” or book a flight to be together to celebrate. We were just an average married couple, celebrating our wedding anniversary, on a Monday.
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