Photos: Judy with camera, Karin, Judy & Karin
By Judy Rickard
Judy is the author of Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law, published by Findhorn Press, 2011.
One thing that’s happened to me since I met my wife Karin, I have been to Europe. Several times. England, Scotland, France, Andorra, Spain. Also Egypt and Canada and Mexico. It’s wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but to others it’s travel. To us it’s exile.
My wife is not an American citizen. Born German, she is a UK national and has been since she was in her early 20’s. Today at 71, she is ready to settle down. At nearly 64, I am right there with her. But we have spent many months out of the country together over the past five years because I cannot sponsor her for immigration to be with me and stay with me in the United States, where we want to be together.
When we got together in 2005 and started thinking our relationship might go somewhere, the issue of citizenship and visas and all that wasn’t really on our minds. It wasn’t something either one of us had experience with. Karin had been in the U.S. previously for a few years, married to her husband at the time and working at their company. They came to America to expand, to open an American portion of their publishing company. When they decided they no longer wanted to live in America, they went back to Europe and settled in France.
But Karin got bitten by the love bug, and came to America, to Oregon in particular, because of a woman. We all have some version of this story I think. But in her case, the relationship did not jell and there she was, on the west coast of America, really far away from her home of five years in the south of France.
Enter cyberspace and online lesbian dating. I was new to a site that was new and new to me. I had given up on dating at the age of 56. The attempts I had had in the social whirl for several years left me feeling like I didn’t want to leave the house and risk it any more. I was settling down, fixing the house like I wanted it and planning on being by myself – no partner – for the rest of my life. Karin, who had a long time developing her lesbian self, decided to see what online dating was all about and went to the site that I had put the profile of my life on – and, you guessed it, she clicked on me.
Long story short, we emailed. We emailed more. We talked on the phone. We met in person and one thing lead to another. By the time 2006 rolled around we were pretty sure we were a couple and then we had to deal with the logistics of being something more than that – a lesbian binational couple. This issue, the bane of thousands, is what we now know by heart, spend much of our time and money on, and educate and advocate about all the time.
American men and women cannot sponsor their same gender non-American wives and husbands for immigration because of two laws on the books today. The first and oldest, Immigration and Nationalization Act of 1952 (INA), sets up the ground rules for immigration sponsorship. An American citizen can sponsor a spouse, parent or child for immigration. Period.
Because of the 1996 law called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a spouse of the opposite gender is the only one allowed that meets the INA criterion. Men and men, women and women don’t factor in. In spite of the fact that we are married in the U.S., the federal government does not recognize us as married. To them we are legal strangers.
When I met Mark and agreed to share travel stories for lgbtSr.com, I knew my stories could be interesting to readers. I am glad to share our experiences and photos from the wonderful places we have been. But I cannot do it as if we have all the time and money in the world to go on sprees whenever we want. I need to make sure you understand that we are in other countries because we can’t be together in America.
Karin has had to be out of the country more than I have. That is, until I took early retirement in 2009 so we would stop being separated for months at a time. Our first big trip together began only a few days after I quit my job at a California university on April 30, 2009. Within 48 hours I was in the car and driving to Canada to meet my wife, who had been out of the country for nine months. Thought I had been able to visit for a few weeks, we knew this sort of life was not what we wanted, so we did what we had to do. As an American, I had to choose between career and wife. I also had to choose between country and wife. I chose Karin over career and we are trying to make a life together in America work – we hope it will.
Our reunion in Canada was the beginning of an amazing journey across Canada’s plains and into the U.S. Karin was allowed into the country for six months, such a relief. We began our planned journey across much of the U.S. on the Oregon Trail, which my genetic ancestors had crossed in their covered wagon .
I will share stories from our lives as Two Broads Abroad. As we say, when we are given lemons, we try to make champagne, not lemonade. Sometimes it works – but at least we get lemonade!
I’ll tell you about The Love Shack in my next story – on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada.