Update, June 26: This post was originally published back in April of this year but we decided to rerun it in light of today's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Last summer, my father-in-law entered the hospital in Germany. My wife, Lu Mueller-Kaul, desperately wanted to be with him. But she was in this country on a complicated visa that forbids her from returning if she leaves. She stayed as her father suffered, cursing the unfair system.
I am in a bi-national, same-sex relationship. We have a legal civil union in Germany, my wife’s home country. Here in the United States, the federal government doesn’t recognize our marriage, and my wife must exist in legal limbo, unable to leave the country and unsure how long it will last.
When my father-in-law entered the hospital, we found a good lawyer and paid him what he was worth. Lu could not travel to Germany because she was on a visa extension that gave her permission to stay but not to re-enter if she left. With the lawyer's help, she now has an E-2 Investor Visa, and she can travel to and from Germany without the fear that she won't be allowed back.
The E-2 visa lasts five years. It does not have any path to residency or citizenship. If we were a straight couple, she could apply for a green card and stay in this country permanently.
Meanwhile, we continue to grow the health clinic we run together. In less than five years, the business has grown from just one therapist and one office person to a staff of five and eight contractors. We have built a reputation for achieving real and lasting results in the resolution of chronic pain and the improvement of athletic performance. We are active in the LGBT business community--in fact, Lu has been nominated for Business Woman of the Year.
If the Supreme Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act, the United States government may recognize our civil union as a legal marriage, giving me the legal right to sponsor my wife’s application for a green card. Or, if the federal government does not recognize our civil union as a marriage, we can get legally married in Massachusetts, New York, or other states that allow same-sex marriages, once again giving me the right to sponsor her for a green card.
The fact that we're having a frank and open discussion about this says much about the times we live in. I saw a sea of red on social media recently, signaling we are living in the middle of a real historical moment. I am a progressive. I believe in moving forward. And to me the times we live in are moving forward.
Deb Ofsowitz grew up in Sarasota and now lives in Orlando. She has worked in the executive offices of Universal Orlando and now runs Balance with her wife, Lu Mueller-Kaul. Find her on Twitter, @BalanceOrlando.
This blog post came from a member of the Public Insight Network, an online community of people who have agreed to share their opinions with the Miami Herald and WLRN. Become a news source by going to WLRN.org/Insight.