A San Francisco man and his Australian husband will be forced apart when the Australian is deported this month after the federal government denied his request to be a permanent resident.
Anthony Makk was trying to become a permanent U.S. resident – like many heterosexual couples do – so he could stay with his loved one who he married seven years ago in Massachusetts. Makk, who has been with Bradford Wells for 19 years, is also doing it because he is a caregiver for his husband who has AIDS.
But the federal government denied his final appeal two weeks ago on the basis of the Defense of Marriage Act which doesn’t recognize their same-sex marriage.
"The claimed relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary is not a petitionable relationship," the government's ruling said. "For a relationship to qualify as a marriage for purposes of federal law, one partner must be a man and the other a woman."
The U.S. Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services echoed the sentiment, saying as long as DOMA was in place, they will continue to operate under that standard.
So now, unless someone steps in for them, the couple says they will have no choice but to part, with Makk being forced to leave the country by August 25.
Bradford Wells never thought he’d be in this situation. All he wanted to do was be with the man he fell in love with while he was on a tour of Australia 20 years ago. The couple made do with the laws that kept them apart – using visas to visit each other every three months. But it wasn’t enough time, so they decided to get married.
“Now for the past few months I’ve been sick to my stomach with worry and I’m going to wake up and Anthony isn’t going to be here,” Wells said.
The couple is calling for the U.S. government to step in and allow Makk to stay and care for Wells. The couple said they feel the federal government is doing everything to keep them from being able to do what any other heterosexual couple already can do.
“I feel that my government is trying to destroy my marriage,” Wells said. “And my government is trying to impose a great deal of harm on my life for no reason whatsoever. I feel like I’m being bullied by my government.”
But the fight to stay together has strengthened the couple's bond, Makk said.
“We made a big commitment to each other and the harder they make it, the stronger our relationship is.”
What’s more frustrating for Wells, who says that the couple never intended for this to become a public debacle, is that they make sure to do everything that all married couples are required to do – like pay joint taxes, but get none of the benefits.
“We have all the responsibilities, do the penalty parts of marriage, but then when it gets to the same benefits, we’re told no, you don’t qualify,” Wells said. “The government has decided they don’t like who I marry. For the federal government to say this isn’t a marriage – it’s degrading.”
Still, the couple holds out hope. Hope that President Obama could step in to the battle that’s already raging in Congress over a repeal of DOMA, which he said he would support.
The hope, Makk said, is what balances out the other feelings they had when they found out together that he would have to leave the country in 30 days. When they got the call from their attorney, he let them down lightly, Makk said. The lawyer didn’t want them to learn of the decision by opening up an envelope. They turned to each other after the phone call and said “I love you” to each other.
“We felt very lost. We thought we’d lost the battle. We were very hopeful someone was going to step in and do something,” Makk said. “So, we say ‘I love you’ a lot. We sit and we remember why we’re doing it. On the selfish side we’re doing this so we can be together. On the other side we’re also taking up the cause I suppose.”
Moving as a couple to Australia is not an option. Wells cannot move to there because of medical issues stemming from AIDS, the couple said.
It's unclear what the next few weeks hold. They’re not planning to say goodbye just yet. They’re still holding out hope.
What will they do during that cherished time together, perhaps time they won’t have for a long time?
That’s very difficult to think about,” Wells said. “We’re just taking it one day at a time.”