Excluded: a bi-national couple’s struggle to stay together

American-born Tony and his German-born partner of 17 years, Thomas, have yet to find a permanent home -- and not for lack of trying. This has been their mission from the very beginning of their relationship.

What has made this impossible is the so-called Defense of Marriage Act which denies same-sex couples the more 1,100 federal protections, including spousal immigration, that come with marriage. This failure of the American government to protect its citizens shapes everything about Tony and Thomas' relationship and their lives. This struggle is chronicled in an unsentimental and straightforward fashion by Lisa Bell in her film, "Excluded".

The film covers at lot of territory in 45 minutes.

We watch the pain of Tony's parents not being able to see their beloved son and would-be son-in-law have the exact same opportunities that made their own union possible also being a bi-national couple.

We see the financial struggles Tony and Thomas face in both Germany and the United States such as the spiraling expenses to earn a college degree that would not exist were they afforded the freedom to marry.

We witness the barriers they face to caring for their loved ones when forced to live abroad. These and a host of other issues complicate but never diminish their ability to do so. For instance, when Tony's grandmother is diagnosed with cancer, the men briefly help care for her but their time is cut short when their month-long visa to the US expires. One cannot help but wonder how much stronger America could be if all its citizens who are fortunate enough to have familial caregivers were not blocked from enjoying this luck by legalized discrimination.

After years of trying, neither the US nor Germany, could provide a place of permanence where Tony and Thomas could feel secure to get on with the work of taking care of themselves and their family. So they make the decision to "go nomadic" and become the world travelers that circumstance has presented as one of their few options to be able to stay together.

The key take-aways?

First, government sponsored marriage discrimination against gay and lesbian families must end.

Second, these are two true survivors. (It is no surprise that the reality show, "Survivor" was a Thursday night ritual when they lived in the States.)

Third, this couple represents what it is to be American in the very best sense of the word. With all the hurdles they continue to face they talk about the opportunities this nomadic existence has afforded them. They have definitely made the most of a bad situation even creating a website called www.contemporarynomad.com to document their "experiment in nomadic living". This is American ingenuity to the umpteenth degree. These are the kinds of "lemonade-out-of-lemons-makers" that make our country great. We should be doing everything we can to make sure that are given every opportunity to succeed.

This effort can start by visiting www.ExcludedTheMovie.com where you can view this important film. Then respond to the film's creator's call to action to share it with others in order to keep this important issue alive and encourage people to do something about it.

Freedom to Marry is working everyday to end the federal marriage discrimination faced by couples like Tony and Thomas. Join us by taking the Freedom to Marry Pledge: www.freedomtomarry.org/takethepledge