The United States won’t recognize my gay marriage or family, so I guess we have to leave

Guest post by Vera

Vera and her wife, photo by LoveShack Photo.
Many parents are faced with hard choices. I have the usual parenting conundrums about things like day care or which cloth diapers to use, so vaccinations have lately begun to take a backseat.

Right now my partner and I are trying to sell our house because in a year, we’ll have to leave the country. I am 7 months pregnant and the last thing I want to deal with is selling a house, packing and worrying about what will happen a year from now.

Unfortunately, I have no choice. My partner is not American, and I cannot get her a green card even though we got married in DC earlier this year. Most of us know that our marriage is not worth much in this country. Unless my wife gets a green card on her own through her employer, we really have no choice but to say goodbye to our friends and life as I have known it for the past 18 years. (I moved to the USA when I was 14; my partner moved here when she was in her early twenties.)

The good thing is that we are looking to relocate to one of two awesome but very different countries: Finland or Canada. Our decision came down to a few obvious choices: my partner is Finnish and both Canada and Finland recognize gay marriage.

Both countries have excellent health care and educational systems — Finland is the top country in the world for childhood education. All of this is excellent for our baby, but where does it leave me? I sometimes wonder how much am I supposed to sacrifice for the sake of my child.

I’ll adapt, but it’s scary to think that I would have to learn a very difficult foreign language in Finland, and would not be able to work for at least a few years as the job market is very unwelcoming to foreigners.

In Canada, we may have an easier time getting jobs and we know the language, but we know absolutely no one there, and won’t have anyone to rely on or reach out to during a moment of need. This wouldn’t bother me so much if it was just the two of us, but moving with a baby changes everything.

Although I am excited at the prospect of moving to a country that finally recognizes our union and our little family, I often find myself longing to stay in the U.S. Maybe it would be the easiest choice for me, but not for my partner. She refuses to bring up our child in a country that treats us as second-class citizens, and I admit that I am beginning to share her point of view.

The fact that I have not been able to help her stay in the country permanently is increasingly frustrating, especially now that we are having a baby. As if drawing up wills and power of attorneys were not enough, I long for the day where our union will be just like any other marriage, questions won’t be asked, and we will not have to worry about bringing along the baby’s birth certificate and other documents every time one of us has to take him to the doctor, to school, or on a trip.

Now that we are having a baby, we see that the things that most parents take for granted do not come easily to us. But I am hopeful that in the future things in America will change for the best, and perhaps who knows? We may even think about coming back!

Comments on The United States won’t recognize my gay marriage or family, so I guess we have to leave

  1. Words can’t really describe how horrible it is that you have to leave b/c our country doesn’t recognize your union. You and your wife are so international in background, and I hope that you do find strength and enjoyment in your new country, once the “settling in” period is over. Although my marriage is recognized in the States (and therefore I realize that gives me options, rather than being forced to make emigration decisions), we have often contemplated moving to the same countries you are considering for many of the same reasons. Best of luck to you!

  2. My heart goes out to both of you. As a Canadian, I would hope that you could build a happy life here in Canada. I live in Montreal, which is not void of prejudice, but seems to have quite a different view of gay marriage. In Quebec, there are also many social programs to help families: $7/day daycare (though sometimes hard to secure a place when your child is very young), generous state-sponsored maternity leave and health care. Also, from what I’ve heard, it seems pretty easy for newcomers to make new friends. Bon courage!

  3. I hate that the US is losing good people to stupid laws that are discriminatory and just plain wrong.

    Know that while you are gone, many of us will be here fighting for your right to be counted equal to the rest of us.

  4. Your story is so heart-breaking to hear. I hate that people argue that gay marriage goes against the “sanctity” of marriage, yet there are people who cheat on their spouses, have ‘starter” marriages, etc. I think everyone has the the right to be married.
    Good luck! Though I can’t imagine how scary it would be to pack up and leave and go some place you don’t know, at least your baby will grow up some place where you both are acknowledged publicly as a couple and as your baby’s parents

    • “I hate that people argue that gay marriage goes against the “sanctity” of marriage, yet there are people who cheat on their spouses, have ‘starter” marriages, etc.”

      These are often the SAME people….

  5. First of all, I’m sorry to hear about your struggles. you are an inspiration to all of us to continue fighting to correct these types of injustices.
    That said, you always have a family in other Offbeat mamas, and you may be able to connect with some before moving (especially if you move to Canada). Some day your child will appreciate every saccrifice made on his/her behalf.

  6. I wish you both the best of luck on your move, but am so sad that you have to do so. I’m a proud Canadian and couldn’t imagine raising my child anywhere else. I’m also 7 months along – if you end up in Southwestern Ontario, maybe we’ll run into each other at an Early Years Centre event! Keep your chins up.

      • Hey there,
        I too am a Mom from Southern Ontario and agree with the other 2 posters–We would love to have you!
        I would have to recommend someplace like Toronto or a bigger city than I am from seeing as you now reside in metro DC. I would think you would want something a little like where you are from. The West Coast is also beautiful 🙂

  7. I find it hard to imagine what it must feel like to be in your position, and you have my wholehearted sympathy.

    It seems that Offbeat Mama might be a good place to find like minded individuals wherever you are in the world – hell, come to the UK and live near us – we’ll make you very welcome!!! (though it is a little further than Canada, granted!)

    Good luck with your decision, and I am sure you will find friends who care, and perhaps less judgmental politics. Best of luck! 🙂

  8. I cannot imagine having to deal with laws that are blatantly discriminatory and go against the way I live my life. I think you are making a bold step by starting a new life somewhere that appreciates difference and varied family values (though I am sure that could be debated within certain circles). I am personally rooting for you to come to Canada, where I live, because there are lots of offbeat mamas who would be your friends AND you wouldn’t have to learn a new language (unless Quebec is calling your name! And even then it’s pretty easy to get by!) I wish you both the best of luck in your decision and in your new lives as mothers to a wonderful little baby! Peace.

  9. I’m so sorry to hear how you and your wife have been treated. Best of luck finding the right place to live and all the great adventures of parenthood that await the two of you. I, like you, keep an optimistic outlook, choosing to believe that one day things will be different and people won’t discriminate in this country based on one’s choice of partners. Until that day, stay strong.

  10. Since Finland is part of the EU, your wife’s finnish passport will allow her to live and work anywhere in the EU. The majority european countries recognize marriage between two people of the same sex, and quite a few of those have easier languages and job markets that are more welcoming than Finland.
    And in countries like Germany, Belgium or the Netherlands the majority of people speak fluent english, so you wouldn’t even have to learn another language, at least not very any time soon.
    I’m realizing now that you might have considered all this already, and still decided to only consider Finland and Canada.
    Anyway, good luck!

  11. Wishing you the very best, wherever you decide to go.

    My wife and I have also considered moving. For us, it’d probably be the Netherlands….but it won’t be until I’ve got my MD, which is a ways away.

  12. I really sympathize with you and wish you the best in the decisions that you will have to make. I have had a different experience immigrating from the US to the UK. I did not earn enough money working in the public sector to be sponsored for a visa by my employer, so my British boyfriend decided it was time to get married so we could be sure we could stay together. Even though we were fortunate in this respect, it is still two years before I can live here permanently. That means if I had a baby now, there’s still the chance I could have to go back to the US (leaving husband and baby) and I also I am not be eligible for maternity leave. We really want to have kids but have to put things on hold during the two year probation. I know it would be a million times more difficult to try to bring my husband to the US. My heart really goes out to you! Good luck to your family wherever you find your new home.

  13. Another Canadian piping in (Ottawa) – I just wanted to add that new motherhood is probably the best time to move because there are so many mommy groups and programs that allow you to get to know a lot of new people instantly. I know it’s not the same as the 18 year old friendships you have there, but you have a group of great friends waiting for you – you just haven’t met them yet.

  14. My heart breaks for you. However, I can honestly say that you will find life easier when you live in a country where your relationship is legally recognised.

    I am Australian and my wife is Canadian. Australian immigration law is a lot kinder than American immigration law. Once we are de facto partners for three years, we can apply to immigrate to Australia. However, how are we supposed to live together for three years without the correct documents? So I’ve packed up my life, moved to Canada and am waiting for immigration to go through my application. 🙁

  15. ugh. this sickens me and breaks my heart and makes ME want to leave the country, too! my heart goes out to you and i hope you guys find peace and community and prosperity wherever you end up! <3

  16. My partner is a dual Australian-US citizen, and we decided to move to Australia six years ago. I got my visa with the about same amount of difficulty that foreign members of opposite-sex relationships encounter! (Which is to say some, but it’s not discriminatory, it’s just the DIAC.)

    The fact that this wouldn’t have worked in the opposite direction makes me so frustrated.

  17. I was in shock when I read this article-my partner is a Turkish citizen, and I’m an American citizen, and we are in the process of immigrating to Quebec! It is such a huge comfort to me to come across someone else who is going through the same experience: the fear associated with starting over, learning a new language, and moving to a whole new country just so we can be together freely. I want to say a giant thank you to you kind Canadians who offered your love and encouragement in the comments-it almost made me cry with relief! I want to be a part of a country with such kind people!! <3 <3

  18. I hope you make it to canada…I live in vancouver (aka the best place ever on the face of the planet) and I have to second everyone else’s motions that you do have so many friends here that you just haven’t met yet. It sucks that you have to leave…but you have so much happiness waiting for you in your future.

  19. I used to work at a day care, and one of the little girls in my class had two moms. She was perfectly normal and the kids didn’t treat her differently, which just goes to prove that the “difference” is a completely arbitrary learned sociocultural bias.

    I am sad that you are choosing to leave, but I completely respect and understand your decision.

  20. I feel your pain! my partner and i are also going through the frustrations of getting her a green card – despite the fact that she’s lived and worked in this country for over a decade!! we are raising my son from a previous relationship, and so returning to her home country as a family is not an option for us. besides – we love our life in our “home” state. we keep praying and hoping that the winds of change will blow our way!

  21. Thank you for sharing your story Vera. My heart goes out to you. I am continually asking myself why my partner and I choose to live in a country that considers us ‘second- class citizens.’ Previously, I justified it as my duty… to continue to fight for full-equality. However, now that we are in the process of adopting a child, I have been debating what is best for our child. We really want to raise our future child in a place that legally accepts us a married couple. It is hard to be patient and I often find myself researching the steps to becoming a Canadian citizen. But, to be honest, I get overwhelmed trying to figure out how we would find work, housing, etc.

    Best wishes and love to you and your family.

    • (I’m a few days behind…)
      I’ve been on a similar thought path as you, Julie. My beloved and I are getting ready to be married (though we live in Kansas and it will not be legal) in less than a year after being together for 5yrs… and we are already planning to have children because of the financial and legal hoops we will need to jump. Both of us know that we will probably leave KS before we have children in order to have a chance for both of us (at least on paper) to have rights to the child(ren). We have talked SO many times about leaving the country to live somewhere that will acknowledge/support our marriage and family. We struggle with the same overwhelming thoughts about work, housing, etc. We are both American citizens and everyone we know is here. We debate if our role needs to be to stay and be activist or to leave in order to give ourselves *especially future children* the life/treatment/care deserved. It makes our heads spin. One step at a time is what my wonderful mate reminds me 🙂 We hope that our path will become clearer as we get closer to family-hood.

      Vera, thank you for sharing your story. Too bad it has to be a sad one. We hope for a happy ending for you! We send our sympathy and warm wishes your way in regards to this journey and the building of your wonderful family. My heart tore for you! May we see a significant change in this country before the end of our lifetimes…

  22. Adding my voice to the chorus of Canadians that would gladly welcome you here! It’s not like it’s a complete utopia, but we are generally a pretty tolerant bunch. Wherever you end up, I wish you the best, though.

  23. While not being gay, sometimes it is hard for me to relate, but us being friends, I read this and cried. No matter what, I CAN ultimately relate, because what makes me most sad is how much this hurts you. And secondly, what makes me sad, is how much I’ll miss you two (and three!) and how this country will miss out on having you in it. I don’t want you to go, but I do understand. It’s just so ridiculous that your marriage isn’t recogonized the same as mine. Plain and simple

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