By Megan Anderson
Brad Allison, 45, has spent the last year thinking about leaving his home in West Michigan and migrating to Canada or moving to Uruguay in order to be with his partner and fiance Christian (Chris) Gonzalez. Brad is the U.S. end of a bi-national relationship, and he and his fiance are facing struggles to be together amid discriminatory immigration and federal marriage laws.
A warehouse supervisor for the Kellogg Company, Brad met Chris through Facebook more than two years ago. Chris showed up as a friend suggestion, as they share similar interests. “I had recently separated from a 15 year relationship and really was not looking for a partner. I was, at the time, enjoying my single life,” Brad said. “At first glance, I thought he was very handsome. He accepted my friend request, and we started chatting through Facebook. Also at the time, he was with his (now) ex-partner, and I respected that.”
Brad and Chris became good friends. They are both big gamers – Brad is into Xbox and Chris likes all types of game systems – and they also share a big love for music. In December 2011, they really started to discuss more about life and love. At that point, Chris was single, and Brad was ready to develop another serious relationship.
“We officially became a couple on February 15, 2012 and were engaged on May 12,” Brad shares.
Once they were a couple, things started to get complicated with immigration and the effect that the Defense of Marriage Act had on their relationship. Brad admits that it’s all a learning process.
“At the time Chris and I got together – when we really knew that we would spend our lives together – I was ignorant of the laws. I knew that the Defense of Marriage Act existed, but I did not really know that it would affect me the way it has,” he said.
“Under federal guidelines, since DOMA defines a spouse or marriage to be between a man and a woman, I cannot even apply for a fiance visa for Chris,” Brad shares. “Or rather, I can apply, but I know at this time it will be denied.”
In wanting to be together long-term, Brad and Chris are weighing their options. They could wait out the process to see if DOMA is overturned and/or immigration reform occurs. Brad could seek a position in Canada through Kellogg Company or move to Uruguay facing limited job opportunities.
“We could wait out the process in hopes that the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down DOMA and/or immigration reforms will also include the Uniting American Families Act,” according to Brad. “We actually have more hope on the former that the death of DOMA will come in June. The minute that DOMA is killed by the Supreme Court, same-sex bi-national couples will be able to apply for their partner. Because this is an existing law and not a new law that needs time to go into effect, it will be stricken off the books once the ruling is handed down.”
Because Brad works for an international company with facilities in Canada, transferring to Canada is a secondary option, and one that he has been exploring for the past several months. “If I were to be offered a job through Kellogg Company in Canada, I would be able to migrate there, and they do recognize Chris as part of my family,” says Brad. “However, qualified visa jobs available in Canada are far and few between.”
The couple’s final alternative is for Brad to move to Uruguay.
“The last option is to give up everything I have established here – family, home, a good job and friends – and migrate to Uruguay,” Brad states. “Uruguay is supposed to have marriage equality by this summer so it would be a very easy move; however I am not fluent in Spanish, so my job options would be very limited there, and Chris has aspirations of doing his art and graphic design here in the United States.”
Brad’s ideal resolution would be that the Uniting American Families Act be included in any immigration reform bill signed into law by President Obama.
“I feel that the current immigration laws are not hurting my relationship with Chris, but it is DOMA that is my Berlin Wall (as I call it),” says Brad. “However, I do feel that immigration law has to be reformed with common sense. I heard the other day that it needs to be called ‘common sense’ immigration reform and not ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform. Any new immigration reform has to include GLBT families.”
Since their relationship began, Brad has visited Chris in Uruguay four times and is traveling to see him again in March 2013, the day before the Supreme Court begins to hear oral arguments for Prop 8 and then the next day on DOMA.
Between travels, Brad has focused his efforts on spreading the word locally about his situation, working with several Kalamazoo-area organizations, including the Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center, who is supportive in this cause.
“The Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center set me up to be a guest speaker at a conference hosted by the Hispanic American Council,” states Brad. “This conference was attended by several politicians including Representative Fred Upton. I was able to briefly speak with him at the end of the meeting. I also met his administrator so I made a very important connection there.”
Brad recently submitted a call for a resolution to the City of Kalamazoo clerk’s office. The resolution is for the City of Kalamazoo to support the Uniting American Families Act. This resolution will appear on the city clerk report.
“I am going to ask the city council to adopt the resolution, and I will be speaking during the public comments,” Brad shares. “I hope that some of the KGLRC community members will be in attendance to support me and call to attention to some of the city commissioners that this resolution needs to be passed.”
Brad shares advice to those who want to assist in his effort.
“Be vocal about this and other issues that matter,” he states. “We cannot be quiet about these things. Especially right now before the Supreme Court ruling and the congressional debate on immigration reform issues. If we are quiet, then those who make the decisions on Capitol Hill will do so without knowing what the real issues are.”
While this issue is receiving national attention, for Brad, it’s a personal one.
“I never in my life thought I would be affected by discrimination,” he says. ” Being gay I was bullied when I was younger, but I did not really care about that. Now my own government is bullying me.”
It all circles back to love and family. Brad continues to share his story so that he and Chris – as well as other bi-national gay couples – can be together.
He shares this final thought on his relationship with Chris: “We deeply love each other and for some reason, destiny has put us together. He is my core, and I am his. I am the tree, and he is the roots. Without the roots, the tree will die.”