oc-22-binational-couples-header copy

The family — Jerry (top row, second from left) and Mimi Goodman (far right), with their adult children Jesse (between Jerry and Mimi) and Sara (far left), and Jesse's partner Max Oliva (front)

oc0022-lavi-solowayJune 25, 2014


Guests:  Mimi Goodman (in photo above), Lavi Soloway (right) of the DOMA Project

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Binational same-sex couples — couples in which one person is a citizen of the United States and the other is not — often faced extreme difficulties during the 15 years that Section 3 of the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was in effect.  Tens of thousands of such couples had terrible choices to make:  one option was to leave their jobs, families, homes, and friends behind to live in another country in order to stay together; the other was to live in different countries, possibly breaking up in the process.  Opposite-sex couples did not have this problem — they could marry and thus stay together in the United States.  But the anti-gay DOMA closed off that option for same-sex couples by prohibiting the federal government from recognizing their legal marriages.

In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that Section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional in the landmark case of United States vs. Windsor [pdf].  This cleared the way for the federal government to recognize valid same-sex marriages, and immigration rights that have always been available to married opposite-sex couples are now available to married same-sex couples.  (Section 2 of DOMA is still in effect; it permits states not to recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states, and many states have bans on same-sex marriage which are currently being challenged in court.  As of this writing, all of the lower court rulings in these cases have declared that such bans are unconstitutional, and it is likely that the Supreme Court will take up the issue in the foreseeable future.)

Note:  In 2015, the Supreme Court overturned the other operative section of DOMA, Section 2, in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges [pdf].  Section 2 had allowed any state to ignore a valid same-sex marriage performed in another state, thereby creating a specific exception to the principle of "comity," which generally requires each state to give legal recognition to the official acts of other states — one of the key principles that make the United States united.  The Supreme Court took up Obergefell somewhat unexpectedly after a division of opinion on the validity of Section 2 developed among the federal Circuit Courts.  The two cases — Windsor and Obergefell — together struck down DOMA in its entirety.  The Obergefell case, decided two years after Windsor, made marriage equality the law throughout the United States.

Many American families were torn apart by this unequal treatment.  On this episode of OutCasting, we look at marriage equality as it pertains to binational couples — particularly as it has applied to a family from Rockland County, New York, just northwest of New York City.  Jesse Goodman and his partner Max Oliva, who is from Argentina, were forced by DOMA to leave the United States about 10 years ago in order to stay together.

They lived for a time in Hungary and now live in London.  Jesse has felt anger toward the United States because his rights as an American citizen were violated by his own government, and the couple does not currently have plans to move back to the U.S.

Mimi Goodman, Jesse's mother, joins us on this episode to talk about how the forced separation has hurt their family.  Among other things, the separation has forced the family to travel internationally just to visit each other.  According to Mimi, many people tell her that she's lucky to be able to visit Europe three times a year.  But as she puts it, "it’s something that was forced on us, so I don’t know that I would say that’s so lucky."

Mimi is a social worker.  She is also president of Rockland County P-FLAG — Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays — a national support, education, and advocacy organization for LGBT people, their families, friends, and allies.  She is also the faculty advisor of a gay-straight alliance in a suburban New York high school.  She considers herself a gay rights activist.

We also talk with Lavi Soloway, co-founder of the DOMA Project, an organization that assists bi-national couples in their fight against separation caused by U.S. immigration law.  At the time of our interview with him, Lavi was a civil rights attorney at Masliah & Soloway, a law firm whose focus is on immigration and related issues.  He is currently an immigration attorney at Soloway Law Group, a law firm whose focus is on immigration and nationality law.  In this program, he provides a legal and large-scale view of the issues DOMA forced on same-sex couples.

This episode is being released on June 25, 2014, to coincide with the first anniversary of the Windsor case, which was announced by the Supreme Court a year ago, on June 26, 2013.

To read more about Jesse and Max's story, visit their page at the DOMA Project website.

This episode was produced by youth participants Nicole, Lester, Sydney, Josh, Travis, and Mady, with OutCasting's Executive Producer, Marc Sophos.

Mimi and Jerry Goodman were guests in a subsequent OutCasting series (episodes 56 and 57) about how parents' hopes and expectations can change when children are LGBTQ.



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