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DOMA Stories:
Federal Marriage Discrimination Hurts Families

GLAD is in court challenging the federal government's discrimination against legally married same-sex couples. In Gill v OPM and Pedersen v OPM, we represent couples and widowers who are harmed in various ways by DOMA. But DOMA hurts many more people than we can represent in these lawsuits.

In these stories, loving couples, widows and widowers, from all walks of life, describe how DOMA hurts their families.

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No ‘Normal Life’ for Newlyweds Living Under DOMA’s Threat

Photograph of Jackie & Gloria

Jackie & Gloria

Like many young newlyweds, Gloria and Jackie*, both 24, enjoy spending a lot of time together. They eat breakfast together every morning before Jackie goes to work at one of her three jobs. They text each other throughout the day and steal away together when Jackie is free between jobs. On days off Gloria and Jackie do the grocery shopping and the laundry together, or head to the beach in their North Shore community.

“We complete each other’s sentences; often we’re thinking the same thing at the same time. We’re just really soul mates,” says Gloria. “And it’s just hard to keep us apart.”

Despite their strong and loving bond – not to mention their marriage – there is one thing that could certainly keep them apart: the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Gloria is a Pakistani national and because DOMA prevents federal recognition of their marriage, Jackie is unable to sponsor Gloria for U.S. citizenship, as other Americans can do for their foreign-born spouses.

Gloria came to the U.S. on a student visa to attend college in Massachusetts.  She and Jackie met there and fell in love. Assigned as roommates, there was an instant connection on the day they moved into their dorm room, back in 2008.

“We stayed up all night, and we just started talking about our relationships, and our families, and all these things,” recalls Jackie, a Massachusetts native. “We’re kind of private people so for us to just start talking right away, it was crazy. We had a lot of things in common even though we were from two different countries.”

Among Gloria and Jackie’s common interests was the desire to be involved with their college community; both were members of the Student Government Association. They also share an interest in helping others, which led them as students to participate in a mission trip to Trinidad. Gloria helped refurbish a church in a poverty-stricken community and Jackie worked with people with HIV/AIDS, who are outcasts in Trinidad.

They became inseparable. When Gloria confessed to Jackie that she was leaving school after their freshman year because of financial problems, Jackie agreed to move with her to Texas, where Gloria’s parents had moved from Pakistan. Over the course of living with Gloria’s parents for a year, the couple realized they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together.

Gloria and Jackie also realized that they eventually wanted to get married – which they could not do in Texas. “We kind of packed up a car and just headed back up to Massachusetts and started our life from a car pretty much,” says Jackie. “We just keep going because we have just strong love for each other.”

Gloria and Jackie exchanged wedding vows in an intimate ceremony – just the two of them and their officiant – in a picturesque little gazebo on the North Shore on October 23, 2011.
While they try to maintain a normal life and routine, DOMA complicates their domestic life. Because they cannot afford the expensive tuition costs that foreign students must pay to attend school in the States, Gloria’s student visa has expired. She cannot work because she has no green card, hence Jackie’s three jobs—as a hotel concierge, a restaurant server and leading programs for elders at an independent assisted living facility. Despite DOMA, they have applied for Gloria to get a marriage-based green card and are hoping Jackie’s petition for her wife will at least be put on hold, enabling Gloria to stay with Jackie in the United States for the time being.

Their experience led them to become involved with Stop the Deportations, Separations and Exile – The DOMA Project, a campaign to raise awareness of, and bring an end to, DOMA’s discrimination against bi-national same-sex couples. They have been sharing their story with the news media and elsewhere with an eye toward educating people about the negative impact DOMA has on their lives.

They try not to contemplate how life would be were Gloria deported to Pakistan.

“I can’t imagine,” says Gloria. “I was nineteen when I met Jackie so all the adult life that I’ve had has been with Jackie. I don’t even know how I would function without her. I can’t imagine it, but most likely, if I end up going, I would probably face big time discrimination for being Christian and gay and a woman. So I mean, I would probably be harmed there, I feel like. I can definitely not be out there as a lesbian.”

It’s easier imagining how they’d feel if DOMA was struck down in the courts or overturned legislatively.

“It would be a huge relief,” Gloria says. “I think we would have the biggest celebration of our life. We talk about it often and Jackie always says she would cry with happiness. We’d be just really, really happy and relieved and excited for life. I think that would make us go on with our life how everyone does and how we’re supposed to. I think we can have more of a normal 24- or 25-year-old life, which we are not having now.”

*The couple asked that their last names and other identifying information be withheld out of concern for their personal situation and for the safety of Gloria’s extended family in Pakistan.

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