As we all perch precariously on the edge of our seats, anxiously waiting the almost certain legalization of same sex marriage in Illinois, an adorable couple waaaaaay up in Roger’s Park can’t help but watch with indifference. Though Caz and Aimee’s marriage would be recognized in Illinois with the passing of this legislation, legitimizing their relationship in the eyes of the law and setting them on an even keel with all the straight married couples in this state, marriage equality in Illinois will fix exactly zero of their problems. Regardless of what happens in Springfield, they will still live every day with the fear that our government will deny them not only the right to legally marry each other, but the ability to remain together in any capacity. Caz is one of tens of thousands of LGBTQ people facing deportation because her marriage is not federally recognized.
When Caz, a Scottish bar manager, and Aimee, an American musician, met four years ago in a pub in London, the attraction was as immediate as it is apparent today (I mean come on – don’t you think they need to enter our Cutest Queer Couple Contest? Because I do). After only a few days together abroad, they began a long distance relationship, flying back and forth between the US and Scotland to see each other every few months. As soon as Caz was able to get a Visa, they followed the rainbow brick road to the magical land of Iowa and made it official. Coming home to a surprise wedding reception thrown by friends and family, the newlyweds were ready to start their lives together.
But a dark cloud had been gathering strength for years, looming ominously over the potential happiness of gay couples across the country: The Defense of Marriage Act. It had them in its sights from the very beginning.
“I wasn’t intending to stay in the US past the expiration of my Visa,” Caz remembers. “I was planning on going back to Scotland before moving to Chicago with Aimee, but we soon realized that if I left, there would be a good chance I wouldn’t get back in.”
Since marrying a partner of the same sex is not a federally recognized union, Aimee is not legally able to sponsor Caz for citizenship the way she would if they were a straight couple. Caz feared that even mentioning her marriage upon re-entering the US would earn her the designation “high risk” of over-staying a visa, which can be grounds for denying one’s entry to the US. So she made the very difficult decision to stay past the expiration of her Visa and wait for immigration legislation to pass that might help them. That was three years ago.
“We really thought it would have happened by now,” says Aimee. “She can’t work, she can’t drive, she can’t get insurance. Even crossing state lines together is risky. Everything about our lives and our marriage is on hold. We can’t have children or buy a house or car. It’s like we are hiding out in our own home. ”
Caz even had to miss her grandfather’s funeral in Scotland this year for fear of not being allowed to re-enter the US. “Over-staying a Visa means a ten-year ban from the country. If something should happen to my father back home, or my brother, I’d have to go back, and that would mean the end of the life we’ve built here in Chicago.”
Many bi-national same-sex couples have found ways around these obstacles put in place by DOMA, but it’s never easy. Or cheap.
“Sure, I could have married an American man, staged an elaborate hoax of a relationship with him and gotten my citizenship that way. Lots of people have, but that would be living a lie,” says Caz. “We didn’t want to break the law. If we were forced to, we at least wanted to be true to ourselves. There is absolutely no reason why the federal government shouldn’t recognize our legal marriage and offer it the same respect as every other.”
Taking Caz’s hand, Aimee adds “We could move to Scotland where we would have the same rights as any straight couple, but we can’t fight for this cause from there.”
And fighting they are.
Aimee and Caz have paired with other local bi-national couples and with Immigration Equality, a national organization fighting for equality under U.S. immigration law for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and HIV-positive individuals, to spread awareness about this issue. Their event on February 16th at the Glenwood Bar is one of the first of its kind in Chicago, bringing the issue of LGTBQ immigration equality to the Midwest. Featuring performances by Florence Nightinjail (Aimee’s incredibly funny acoustic show) and other local performers (I don’t want to ruin the suspense, but there might be some drag involved…) a 50/50 raffle, and silent auction (including gift certificates for local businesses, lunch with state representative and gay-rights advocate Kelly Cassidy, cooking classes at Le Cordon Bleu, and original stained-glass artwork by Caz); all proceeds will go to Immigration Equality.
Come help them give the middle finger to DOMA, and walk away with some cool stuff, maybe a couple phone numbers (I’m just sayin’ – it IS love season, after all) and a new appreciation for just how necessary marriage equality is on the federal level.
February 16, 2013
The Glenwood Bar,
6962 N Glenwood Ave, Chicago, 60626
Feb 16th – 4pm-8pm
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Born and raised in rural Nebraska, Stacy migrated to Chicago in 2008 to begin her career in education. After four years of teaching high school English in the Englewood and Aburn Gresham neighborhoods of Chicago's Southside, she has since shifted her focus to more creative pursuits, returning to her first loves: interior design and poetry. Though she spends more time at poetry readings now than in classrooms, she can't seem to tear herself away completely, facilitating training and professional development for schools on LGBTQ issues in the classroom and providing interior design services for improving educational environments. She loves traveling, everything nature, crafting, casseroles, reading, and you. She definitely loves you.