UPDATED October 2013: Since Robert & Mark shared their story with Freedom to Marry, same-sex couples in New Jersey won the freedom to marry when a judge in NJ ruled in favor of marriage in October 2013.
On June 26, 2013, when the Supreme Court handed down its ruling overturning the central part of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, Mark and Bobbee Cotter-Dacres were watching a Wimbledon tennis match in London. The men, who have been together for over three years, were overjoyed: They had been anxiously awaiting the ruling on DOMA for months - after all, DOMA was the primary reason they were living in London. As a binational same-sex couple, DOMA prevented Mark, an American citizen, from sponsoring Robert, a citizen of the United Kingdom, for immigration purposes in the United States. For the duration of their relationship, they have been separated off and on, living with one foot in the London and one foot in New Jersey.
"Our relationship has involved one of us traveling across the Atlantic each month for long weekends together," Robert explained. He added that while their careers offered some flexibility in making the transatlantic relationship work - Robert is an ICU nurse at a London hospital and Mark is an operations manager for an international hotel franchsie - the constant trips and having to operate both homes, one in NJ and one in London, came at great financial cost.
"Our relationship is very strong and we have support from both of our families and friends," Robert said. "But the obvious stress of living apart for much of the time often takes its toll."
In October 2011, Mark and Robert committed their lives to each other in a civil partnership ceremony in London. "Many of our friends and family members travelled significant distances to be a part of our special day," Robert explained, adding that it was a beautiful fall day in London.
Now that the central part of DOMA has been struck down, Robert and Mark are looking forward to building a life, home, and family together in the United States - in New Jersey. With access to federal protections - including the ability for Mark to sponsor Robert for an American green card - the men are looking forward to staying here permanently in the United States in Mark's New Jersey home.
But it's time for New Jersey to stop treating Robert and Mark like second-class citizens and to stop regarding their marriage as the second-class family status of "civil union." It's time for New Jersey lawmakers to extend the freedom to marry to all committed couples so that all New Jersey families can share in the responsibilities and security of marriage.
"Marriage matters to us both because we are both firmly committed to each other," Robert explained. "We wish to grow old together. We wish for the other partner to be legally protected and recognized in the event of any health issues. We wish to create a family to add to our existing large families. We wish for our marriage to be treated like any other marriage in the United States."