When the U.S. Supreme Court takes on a challenge to a federal law affirming marriage as the union between people of the opposite sex this March, the case will likely be followed all over the world.
And it’s that communities of gay American expatriates have sprouted up all over, including in countries like England, Australia, Spain and the Netherlands, due to the U.S.’s unwelcoming climate for gay binational couples, according to a recent New York Times article.
Currently, laws do not allow for foreign-born, same-sex partners of Americans to request a green card or permanent residency on the basis of their relationship because of the Defense of Marriage Act.
The federal law defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman, which makes it impossible, even for binational couples married in states where gay marriage is legal, to petition for permanent stay in the U.S.
“Ultimately, we resolved that staying together was the most important thing for us,” Brandon Perlberg, a lawyer who moved to London because his partner’s U.S. temporary visa was going to expire, told the Times. “And the only way to guarantee that we got to stay together was by making this move.”
Perlberg and his British partner, Benn Robert Storey, were forced to move to London and leave behind good-paying jobs to be together. England is currently in the process of approving gay marriage nationwide. And according to Perlberg, it only took 48 hours to get a resident visa.
Another option for gay binational couples could be the government’s immigration overhaul, which President Obama said he wanted to include same-sex international couples in the plan. A bipartisan committee is currently working on a bill.
The Supreme Court is set to take on DOMA in Windsor v. United States starting March 27.
In the meantime, Perlberg and Storey, along with many others around the world, are following the debates, hoping one day they can return to the country where they wished to settle and enjoy equal protections under the law.
“I had developed an identity as a New Yorker,” Perlberg told the Times, “and, really, a passion for the city and the country in which I lived. And then in one fell swoop I was just pushed down to the bottom of the ladder.”