Confronted with Immigration Inequality, One Gay Binational Couple Goes Nomadic to Survive

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Tony and Thomas are a gay binational couple affected by last week's decision by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) not to accept green card applications from same-sex couples. Until the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is overturned, the American-German couple has gone nomadic to survive.

Unlike straight couples, gay and lesbian Americans cannot marry their foreign partners and sponsor them for a green card. Last week, this inequality came to national attention when the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) first signaled they would accept green card applications from gay and lesbian couples and then, almost immediately, reversed the new policy. Such political flip-flopping has left same-sex couples searching for solutions. After years of struggling with immigration inequality, Tony, a native of San Diego, and his German partner Thomas decided to "leave sedentary life behind and go nomadic." Now on the road for almost four years, this dedicated couple survives by documenting their daily adventures and discoveries in their adventure travel blog ContemporaryNomad.com. Despite their unique survival strategy, Tony and Thomas want change now.

"It's infuriating to be told that you have to put your life on hold while society learns to feel more comfortable with your relationship," says Tony, "We were 23 when we first met. How long are we supposed to wait?"

Tony explains that their 18-year relationship has been a series of legal, political and cultural hurdles that would have torn most couples apart. For years, they hoped that immigration and marriage laws in the United States would become more inclusive or that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) would be overturned. They describe bouncing between Africa, Europe, Central America and the United States living from visa to visa. When partnerships became legal in Germany, they moved to Berlin to start over. But German partnerships became a quick lesson in the meaning of separate is not equal. Frustrated with second-class status on two continents, Tony and Thomas decided to take their futures into their own hands by starting their travel blog.

"Life handed us a serious case of gay marriage lemons," says Tony, "so rather than just sit there and suffer, we decided to make some adventurous lemonade. Starting ContemporaryNomad.com was a declaration of self-determination. We wanted to define ourselves with something other than injustice; we wanted to be known for adventure."

"We write about adventure travel, culture, wildlife and the environment," describes Thomas, "Our experience as a gay binational couple has definitely had a huge influence on our writing as we sympathize with many of the minority groups we've met along the way. For example, we have talked about human rights in Tibet, the Paduang tribe in Myanmar, and women in India."

But this couple has a light side as well. Quirky travel tales and funny cultural observations combine with tongue-in-cheek titles to keep their readers entertained as they contemplate the globe and wait for the marriage debate to end.

"A sense of humor is necessary as a binational couple," remarks Tony, "without one, you would go insane with all the political and legal games that people play. This is not some abstract debate about definitions. Marriage and immigration equality are necessary for binational couples to survive. We have found a rather unique way to stay together, but this is by no means a solution for every couple in our situation."

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Anthony Eitnier
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