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Defense Of Marriage Act Forces Gay Couple To Live An Ocean Apart

By Candice Leigh Helfand

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS Las Vegas) — When Inger Knudson-Judd leaves her job working as a massage therapist and settles in at home for the evening, she often finds herself turning to make an offhand comment to her wife, Philippa, while preparing dinner or doing chores.

It’s when she turns to find no one there to answer that she remembers Philippa is presently an entire ocean away in the United Kingdom.

“I keep forgetting,” Inger admitted to CBS Las Vegas. “And then it comes rushing right back.”

The reason for their separation is the Defense of Marriage Act, which does not recognize their marriage on a federal level.

As such, even though Philippa is willing to give up her life to move in with Inger and their soon-to-be-teenage daughter, Inger cannot legally sponsor her as her spouse for American citizenship.

“The longest we have been in the same place is 89 days in over four years,” Inger said. “That’s less than three months.”

The Defense of Marriage Act is a nationally recognized law signed by former President Bill Clinton and enacted in 1996 that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

DOMA, a particularly sore point of protest for equal rights activists, also bars same-sex spouses from receiving health insurance, Social Security and tax benefits heterosexual couples get.

The couple has so far been careful to adhere to the law, ensuring Philippa does not stay past the federally mandated 90-day limit on the Visa Waiver Program and visits infrequently enough to stay off the radar of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

“Obviously I have to fit these trips into vacation time from work,” Philippa, who presently works three jobs, told CBS Las Vegas.

Inger and their daughter have also made multiple trips to visit Philippa in the U.K. – all at great expense for the family.

The couple first met online in a forum for tattoo enthusiasts, then forged a deeper connection when Philippa’s mother fell ill and subsequently passed away. Inger’s constant support throughout her mother’s illness inspired Philippa to visit her in thanks – a meeting that led both of them to find the person with whom they wanted to share their lives.

They held a commitment ceremony in 2009, then legally married in Iowa – one of six states that recognizes gay marriage, along with Washington, D.C. – just last month. Neither gesture was enough to give them the long-term home and happiness they desire, though.

“If we’re lucky, we get six weeks [to spend together],” Inger said. “Frequently, we’re not that lucky.”

Both Inger and Philippa have spoken with countless immigration lawyers, and looked into options such as student Visas and H-1B employment Visas, but so far, they have not found a workable and lasting solution.

For now, the couple takes some solace in the community of supporters surrounding them, comprised of loved ones near and far, as well as those who sympathize or empathize with their predicament.

And Inger and Philippa have not been afraid to get political, to stand with the wave of opposition for DOMA. Their open discourse on the matter even helped news of the situation go viral after a picture (shown above) captured just before Philippa’s most recent return to the U.K. spread like wildfire throughout the Internet.

“I have been overwhelmed by the amount of messages … we have received,” Philippa said of the publicity garnered by the image. “[But] … with the amount of positive responses our family has had … [why] is DOMA still present and enforced?”

Their 12-year-old daughter, Inger’s from a previous marriage but who considers Philippa as much a parent as Inger, is also blindly supportive of the couple’s love and passionately opposed to their forced separation.

The couple proudly considers their daughter’s advanced awareness of inequality, as well as the support of a sea of faces familiar and foreign, to be bright spots for in an otherwise dark situation – as has the deepened appreciation for every moment they spend together, from the monumental to the mundane.

All the same, normalcy is not something easily achieved for the couple whenever they are apart.

“I suffer from sleep deprivation when I am away from my wife. I can’t settle,” Philippa said. “I still haven’t managed to be there for any of my daughter’s school performances. We have to make trips around special occasions which inevitably means other special occasions get missed. These are events that cannot ever be replaced and it really does hurt.”

“It does shake you to your foundation,” Inger added. “The reality of not having [her] around … sometimes I think I can hear her, or smell her, but I turn around and it’s not real. It sucks.”

The poignancy of everyday life without one another fuels them both forward in the fight for equality, and the pursuit for a solution to their ongoing issue – for them, the love is worth the fight.

“Our marriage is not about politics … [and the situation is] private, but someone has to speak out,” Inger noted. “If baring our lives for general consumption is what we have to do, then we will – being quiet isn’t helping.”

  • Michael Markle-Lim

    Me and Jess were married in D.C. on May 24, 2010. We are working with Immigration lawyer to get our rights recognized. Jess is from the Philippines. We are apart because of D.O.M.A. We went before immigration for our interview. We passed the interview, but D.O.M.A. won’t let us be together. That is the only thing that keeps us apart. We changed our last names and everything else we could do as a married couple do. President Obama, please, if you are listening, please do away with this discriminating law as it keeps so many people from having a basic right to love!!! Please, I beg you to do what needs to be done. I fought for my country while in the U.S. Army. Why will my country not fight for me?

    • Meri Justus

      together we will make all of our voices heard tell your story every where Facebook, You tube, and to any one who will listen.
      Join my Face book Group I set up for Inger, and Phillipa
      we are a group of people in the same situation and supporters our situation

  • Meri Justus

    Thank You CBS LasVegas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Lesley

    Keep up the good fight my friends. Look at what is being achieved with this story and you know you’re loved and supported by so many of us. We will win this fight and you three will not have say good bye at an airport with the specter of when I will see her again hanging over your heads. Love will win out.

  • Mark Starr

    Effing religious yahoos are not happy unless they are sticking their noses into other peoples personal business. Hey evangelical aholes, you are the worlds biggest phonies.

  • tewadinger

    why dont they move to the UK?

    • Luci

      They can’t because then their daughter will be away from her father. Inger and her daughter cannot just leave the country to move there.

  • Anthea

    Among other things, because they both want their daughter to be able to have a relationship[p with her father.

  • Jon

    Love the fact that CBS covered this on a local level- wish someone would bring it up at the federal level and say how many LGBT American’s are talking about not voting for Democrats because of the lack of movement for our folks. If Obama isn’t for gay marriage- this bi-national couple isn’t for Obama. If he has the power to keep us binationals together by getting rid of DOMA- then I have the power of not voting. I know- whats the alternative? At this point they are the same.

  • Gemma

    From what I understand DOMA is not fully being enforced. A few cases now have been let go by US immigration officials. Obama said he will not deport individuals under DOMA is this not true? I am not someone in the news who can just call the white house but maybe this can be looked into. I did read of a case involving a case in California where the husbands deportation order was dropped. He was also HIV positive and lived in the US for several years. Not sure if this helps it was only a few months ago that I read this.

    • Ainethil

      The cases you mention are real, but unfortunately they do not represent a non-enforcement of DOMA. If an American tries to apply for a green card for a same-sex spouse, they are automatically denied citing DOMA. The deportation cases that were closed were under a policy called “prosecutorial discretion” that allows a judge to drop deportation cases no deemed to be priority. However, these people do not get any legal status in the US, so they cannot legally work, study, or have a path to legal permanent residency. The policy can, in certain cases, prevent deportation, but does nothing else. for the couple.

  • http://washington.cbslocal.com/2013/08/23/law-professor-the-supreme-court-will-grant-same-sex-marriage-in-all-50-states/ Law Professor: ‘The Supreme Court Will Grant Same-Sex Marriage In All 50 States’ « CBS DC

    […] longest we have been in the same place is 89 days in over four years,” Inger told CBS Las Vegas at the time. “That’s less than three […]

  • http://keralalawyer.com/article/law-professor-the-supreme-court-will-grant-same-sex-marriage-in-all-50-states/ Law Professor: 'The Supreme Court Will Grant Same-Sex Marriage In All 50 States' - Kerala Lawyer

    […] longest we have been in the same place is 89 days in over four years,” Inger told CBS Las Vegas at the time. “That’s less than three […]

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