A Binational Couple’s Happy Ending

Howard Brenner & David Usdan | New York, NY

EDITORS' NOTE: This guest blog post was written by Howard Brenner, a British national who fell in love with his partner David in 2003 on a trip to New York City. For years, because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, David was unable to sponsor Howard for immigration purposes, knowing that even if they were legally married, they would not be respected by the federal government, so the two were often kept separated. Now, with the central part of DOMA being struck down last summer, Howard was able to get a fiancé visa this year, and the couple legally married in April 2014. Read his story, updated after the wedding:

The last blog post I wrote for Freedom to Marry was almost two years ago - and nine years into my long-distance binational relationship with my lovely life partner David. Things at that time were not looking good for us. Although the freedom to marry was gaining amazing recognition at the state level, as a binational couple (I am from England, David is from the U.S.) we were still blocked from sharing our lives together by the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Although we always felt fully supported by the love of our friends and families, many people tried to tell us that DOMA was here to stay and the chances of us being able to marry and it being recognized at a federal level were slim. They tried to tell us that we should try our level best to think of alternative ways of being together in our future.

But then one day last June, when David was visiting me in London, suddenly our future took on a whole new shape and form. As we sat in my garden awaiting the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA we felt both nervous and excited, knowing this ruling could ultimately change the course of our lives. And suddenly there it was: A 5-to-4 majority vote overturned DOMA and meant that when we married in the United States, it would mean we could stay together in the United States, no questions asked. It was a historic day for so many people, and a very happy and transformative day for us.

We filed a petition for my fiancé visa with the United States Citizen and Immigration Services in late July, and in early August David formally proposed to me at Broadway night club 54 Below in the middle of Tony Award winner Alice Ripley’s show. The audience cheered when I said "Yes," we drank champagne, we laughed, we smiled and we knew we were no longer a binational couple divided by inequality, legalities, and an ocean.

My visa journey has felt stressful at times. Moments were longwinded and uncertain, but then on a cold day in January, after an interview at the American Embassy in London (with one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet), my visa was granted.

We got married at 54 Below, where we got engaged, on April 19, the 11th anniversary of our first meeting. In the lead-up to our wedding, we did all of the things that people typically do. It feels so special to be able to take our relationship and partnership to the next level.

This really is our happy ending.

But as we worked on endless discussions about table plans, flowers and registries, we were all too aware that the freedom to marry is not an option for all Americans. We hold those who are still unable to enjoy it in our hearts and truly empathize with them. Our hope is that one day, everyone can have the gift we have been given, the gift that so many other people just take for granted, the gift we are truly grateful for.


Photo by 54 Below. See more here.

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