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US Immigration Barrier Removed for Married Gay Couples

  • Michael Bowman

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages just as it does for heterosexuals. The ruling has special significance for thousands of gay Americans married to foreign nationals or who plan to do so.

Swede Anna Olsson and American Michelle Bailey met two years ago, fell in love, and built a life together near Washington. Swedish pancakes have become a shared morning ritual.

Neither can imagine life without the other.

"I just feel lucky. I mean, I never knew I could feel this good," said Bailey.

"This is the love of my life, and I cannot wait to marry her," said Olsson.

Michelle is a Web designer, Anna a university instructor. Until last week, the couple feared U.S. law would force them apart - or to move to Sweden - when Anna’s work visa expires.

"It is almost torture living under the threat of having to uproot yourself. It is not just a little right that is taken away from you, it is a life," said Olsson.

In March, Michelle and Anna stood outside the Supreme Court during oral arguments over the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as solely between a man and a woman under federal law. Last week’s ruling, striking it down, brought euphoria and relief.

"It was unbelievable joy. Thrilling and exciting and tears," said Michelle.

"It was indescribable the feeling . It felt like I was flying for the rest of the day," said Anna.

For years, immigration attorney Thomas Plummer has fought to keep bi-national gay couples together.

"These families are now going to be treated equally under U.S. immigration law, which means that families here in the United States can begin planning their lives together. Couples in exile can plan their return, and families that are apart can reunite in the United States," said Plummer.

Already, the Obama administration is weighing in. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that immigration petitions for a same-sex spouse will be reviewed "in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse."

Michelle and Anna took part in U.S. Independence Day celebrations with added joy.

"I have had my status elevated from second-class citizen. So I am feeling pretty darn good," said Michelle.

"Having lived here for 10 years, I have never been as proud of America as I was on June 26 [when DOMA was struck down]," said Anna.

And what now for the couple?

"We are planning to get married in the very near future. And yeah, we are staying. That is the main thing. It does not sound too exciting but it is," said Anna.

"We are just going to stay living our lives. Fixing the house up and whatever we normally do," said Michelle.

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