So on this particular trip, we had taken a long weekend getaway to Cornwall. It was a brilliantly sunny late afternoon at Land's End. Land's End, if you have never been there, is the extreme south-westerly point of the British mainland, and the extreme westerly point of the mainland of England. We had just spent the day driving around the coast. (We even found time to see the wonderfully cheezy Doctor Who exhibit that was going on there.)
Afterwards, we hiked over to an incredibly scenic point on the cliffs overlooking the North Atlantic. The sun was just starting to set, and the light was perfect to take pictures. So I told Eric to stand there against the panoramic view, and I took this photo of him. --->
It took me a couple of seconds to adjust my camera to capture the light, and afterwards I was looking at the photo in the view screen, when Eric asked me; "What are you doing? Did it turn out ok?"
I smiled at him, and showed him the photo, he agreed that with the light and the view, the photo was a good one. I then turned to face him, and with the setting sun shining in my eyes, I asked him to marry me. He blinked a couple of times, and didn't say anything, and frankly my heart stopped for a moment. A split second later, he smiled in that particular way he does, that makes my knees go weak. Then looked at me and said. "I already said yes a long time ago." What followed was a PDA (public display of affection) that, while relatively mild, would most likely cause the bigots over at Focus on the Family's heads to explode.
I returned to the United States a few days later. While sitting on the long eleven hour flight, I looked out at the Atlantic Ocean 36,000 feet below and one thought kept ringing through my head like a trumpet blast. We were engaged!
On election night 2008, Eric and I were hopeful for two things. The first, was that Barack Obama would be elected President. While campaigning for President, Senator Obama had indicated that while he was not in favor of "marriage" for same sex couples, he firmly believed in Civil Unions that couples like Eric and myself should have the same legal rights as any other American couple.
The other thing we hoped for that night, was that Proposition 8 in California would be defeated. Prop 8 is the ballot initiative that banned same sex marriage in California. At the end of the night we were disappointed by the passage of legalized hatred with Prop 8, but hopeful that the new American President would live up to his word and work to pass the Uniting American Families Act. A law that would allow same sex couples to sponsor their spouse / partner/ whatever- you want to call it, to come to the United States, just as opposite sex couples can.
We even added our voice to the lobbying effort on this issue. Creating a YouTube video that was shown to lawmakers as part of the push to get a vote on the UAFA.
Yet as 2009 moved into 2010 it was clear that there would be no movement by the Obama Administration on the issue of marriage equality. The Republicans in Congress were consumed with their desire to prevent President Obama from getting ANYthing done, let alone addressing a hot button social issue like LGBT rights.
Faced with this reality we had to make a choice. We could continue the back and forth, long distance relationship we were in now, or we could pursue "plan b". Where Eric would instead sponsor me, to move to the United Kingdom. The UK, like most of Western Europe, grants same sex couples equal rights in terms of spousal immigration. The United States, because of the "Defense of Marriage Act", refuses to recognize Eric as my spouse, but the United Kingdom would recognize me as his.
So in the spring of 2010, we applied for a Civil Partner Visa for me. This visa would allow us to register as Civil Partners. This would be the first step in a two step process. Step 1: Register as Civil Partners and Step 2: Eric sponsors me as his spouse to settle in the UK.
The first visa, (the CP Visa) took about nine months to apply for . The documentation required, was very daunting. You basically had to prove everything about your life, your job history, financial history and prove that your relationship was legitimate. On top of that, this process is certainly, not cheap. Trying to do this on your own is a lot like trying to perform surgery on yourself. It's possible you could do it, but all it takes is one error to effectively make a huge mess of the whole thing.
The next step was to actually get registered as Civil Partners. Which you think, would be the easy part. Guess again. Because I am not currently living in the UK, the process is almost comically complicated. The UK like many other European countries has sensibly drawn a wall of serparation between "Civil Marriage" and the religious sacrament of marriage. To get married or registered as Civil Partners in the UK, you must first "give notice" in your particular locale at the local registry office. To do that, you must first have been in the UK for at least 7 days and 7 nights.
Since I was not in a position to sit in the UK For 22 days while this whole waiting process ticked by, it meant making two trips to the UK within a one month period, One trip over the Holidays to give our notice, and a second trip 16 days later to actually register as Civil Partners. The end result being, I would then be Eric's spouse and we could apply for a Spousal Settlement Visa that would allow me to live and work in the UK.
As we celebrated, we also were busy putting together all the documents and material we would need for the last step in this long, long process. Our application for my Spousal Visa to settle permanently in the UK.
As we poured over all the required documents, we both had nightmarish visions of forgetting something, and going through this whole process, only to have to start all over again. It was a stressful two weeks after our ceremony, as we tried to go over everything via skype and webcam to make sure we had not forgotten anything.
On February 8th, we sent all our supporting documents, including my passport, and the completed final visa application to the UK General Consulate in Los Angeles. Along with the $1,200.00 application fee. The final document weighed more than seven pounds.
So when my blackberry buzzed last Friday to alert me I had just received an email from the British Consulate in Los Angeles, my first thought was not a happy one. As only two weeks had gone by, I figured the email must be to inform us that our application had been rejected. We had forgotten to include some document, some piece of paper that now would doom us to go back to square one, and start this long agonizing, and ridiculously expensive process all over again.
The rest of the day last Friday is actually a bit of a blur. I immediately called Eric in London, He was startled when he saw my cell number on his caller ID, I rarely called him in the middle of the workday, and he also assumed it must be to deliver bad news. Both of us spent the rest of the day in a slight state of shock, that this long journey we have been on to finally be together , was about to be completed.
Today, Monday, February 21st, 2011 at 10:28am Pacific Standard Time, a brown UPS truck pulled up outside my building here in San Francisco. A rather harried overworked looking UPS Driver handed me a large box and asked for my signature. Inside it was the seven plus pounds of documents minus the visa application paperwork, and on top of the pile was my US Passport. On page 14, I found this... --->
So why am am I telling you this whole long, drawn out story? That's a real good question. And the answer is not an easy one. We had no choice, but to go through all this stress and expense for the simple reason that, the Government of the United States of America, MY government, is determined still, to treat me and my Spouse as 2nd class citizens
When I hear clueless ignorant wingnuts, in their opposition to marriage equality say; "Same sex couples can daft contracts that give them the same rights as everybody else. We don't need to pass same sex marriage laws.", it's hard not to throw things at the t.v. The truth is same sex couples in the U.S. are anything BUT equal.
So after waiting for President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party to keep all those wonderful promises about equality they made back in 2008, It became clear the United States Government is not going to treat its citizens equally under the law anytime soon. And the Republican Party, along with the Tea Party lunatics they spawned, are just fine with that.
In 1776 it was Great Britain that treated the original "tea party patriots" as second class citizens. How ironic that in 2011, it is the new "tea party" that will fight with all it has, to keep the United States LESS free than Great Britain, whose citizens are treated far more equally under their laws, than Americans are treated here under ours.
So as we celebrate the ending of one journey and the beginning of another, our life together. Eric and I do hope that someday The United States will grow up. But in the meantime, to our friends, and our family, we look forward to you visiting us at home, in London.