Nathalie Gaulthier is a Canadian citizen, but she has lived in the United States for 17 years. She owns an internationally renowned circus arts school in Culver City, California. She pays state and federal taxes to California and the United States. She has been in a loving and committed relationship with her American fiancée for six years. And in spite of all that, Nathalie is continually denied her green card, meaning that she is a permanent guest in the country she calls home.
That's because Nathalie's fiancée is a woman, Hope Hall, an American citizen and military veteran. A new mini-documentary from Reason TV - Citizenship Denied: DOMA, Immigration, and Gay Marriage focuses in on Nathalie and Hope and demonstrates how they are discriminated against by the federal U.S. government.
Because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal respect of lawful marriages between same-sex couples, same-sex couples are deprived of more than 1,000 protections and responsibilities afforded to married different-sex couples. For Nathalie and Hope - and thousands of other binational same-sex couples like them - this includes the ability to sponsor your spouse for a green card to allow them to move permanently to the United States.
The new Reason special explains that for now, Nathalie has been staying in the country through an O-1 Visa, which is granted to "aliens of extraordinary ability." As a trapeze artist and expert in circus performance arts, Nathalie is allowed to continue running her business and living in the states, although the visa renewal process consumes huge amounts of time and money.
"This is my home," she says in the video. "This is where I work. This is where I employ 16 Americans. This where I pay all of my taxes. I am very grateful that I have an O-1 visa. But I have to keep renewing it and I have to keep proving myself every 24 months, and it takes six to nine months of paperwork to do so. And it costs thousands and thousands of dollars."
If Nathalie was engaged to an American man, she could marry him, apply for a green card, and be considered a U.S. citizen in less than eight months. For different-sex couples, marriage is a ticket to near-instant citizenship.
Hope explains how unfair the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is and how she and Nathalie are personally affected by its discriminatory impact. "She could grant me Canadian citizenship over a weekend," Hope says about Nathalie. "But conversely, here in the U.S. because gay marriage is not federal, I cannot offer her that same gift. And it kills me. I served in the military - i"m a graduate of the naval academy. I have served this country, and I deserve the same rights - and those rights include the ability to give the person that I love that gift. It angers me."