Meet Caroline and Laurie
Meet Laurie and Caroline Hart
It began as so many modern love stories do: two people online, one sends a "smile" to the other, and a connection is made. Just like Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in a modern day "You've Got Mail" these two would discover that this would spark the greatest romance of their lives.
The smile led to talking; the talking to flirting. After weeks of marathon phone calls spent getting to know each other, and making plans to meet, Laurie was finally picking Caroline up from the airport. From that first "in-person" meeting, they each knew that this was it. This was love. There was no going back now.
One year later, they were married.
This is the point at which most couples can relax. They can settle down and enjoy being with each other: enjoy married life and make plans for the future. Unfortunately, this was not the case for these newlyweds.
Laurie is American. Caroline is British.
For a heterosexual couple, it isn't exactly an easy process for one spouse to sponsor the other for permanent residency (a "Green Card"), but it IS very possible. Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act explicitly prevents Laurie from sponsoring Caroline in the same manner.
In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.[source]
With this avenue off-limits, the couple sought alternative means of keeping Caroline in the country legally. With a ten-year visitor's visa, allowing entries of up to 6 months at a time, Laurie and Caroline frequently traveled between the UK to keep that status current. Not only was this emotionally and physically draining, but it put a huge strain on their finances. Originally, they were flying every two weeks, but after buying a house in Massachusetts in 2007, they restricted that travel to 3 times a year - still a huge sum of money. At the same time the couple started their own wedding photography business just as the recession was starting. The irony is not lost on them.
Things were going swimmingly. Despite the recession, the business was a success, and they had decided to reduce the amount of travel to and from the UK to focus on their lives together here. Then the unthinkable happened. Laurie's father suffered a massive heart attack, quickly followed by a stroke leaving him incapacitated and unable to speak. Laurie wanted to be close by as much as possible.
Knowing that there needed to be a change, Laurie and Caroline started the long and expensive path to obtaining a permanent visa for Caroline in July 2012; After advice from various LGBT help centers and legal advisers, they opted for the route of a Treaty Investor visa - the E-2. As they already had their own business, and it was doing well, this seemed the obvious, legal choice.
On February 8th, Caroline received word that her visa application had been denied. Devastated by this news, and refusing to give up, she and Laurie both took to social media. They reached out to friends, strangers, celebrities, politicians, organizations - and set Twitter ablaze:
Laurie and Caroline have tried to do everything the right way. They have invested everything trying to make this happen and feel as though everything is working against them. Without relief, they will not only be forced to separate but will also lose their home and business. Caroline's 11 year old son lives in Massachusetts with the couple, and is a grade ‘A’ student. He loves his life in the US with them both, and does not want to be forced back to the UK. Laurie doesn't want to have to choose between her father and her wife, yet that is just what she is being asked to do.
The passage of the Uniting American Families Act could solve all their problems. Laurie could finally sponsor Caroline for permanent residency, and the couple could remain in the country that Laurie was born and raised in, and Caroline loves as her own. There would be no decision between father and wife, no tumultuous upheaval of a pre-teen changing schools, and no more discrimination.
Caroline celebrates her 50th birthday with Laurie in New York earlier this year
Follow @UAFAwatch on Twitter for updates. In the meantime, please contact your representatives and senators and urge their support for this life-changing law. Help loving couples such as Laurie and Caroline stay together. Feel free to tweet your message of support to @carolinemhart and @HartLaurie