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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 August, 2004, 17:37 GMT 18:37 UK
Gay couple's immigration fear
Belinda Ryan (left) and Wendy Dew
The couple are still hoping for a change in the law
A British woman and her partner face giving up their life in San Francisco unless there is a change to American immigration laws for gay couples.

Belinda Ryan, originally from Swansea, and Wendy Daw have been together six years since falling in love when Ms Daw visited Wales.

They set up home in California, but US law does not allow Ms Daw, an American citizen, to sponsor her partner's green card.

When her work visa expires next year, they will have to leave the US to remain together.

Wendy will be living in exile from her own country
Belinda Ryan

Ms Ryan, a commercial helicopter pilot, said it is a situation causing heartbreak for many single-sex couples in the US.

"My work visa runs out next year," she explained.

"We've bought a house together. We've got a dog and two cats.

"Wendy is now having to face the prospect of leaving her own country.

"She has elderly parents and we are going to have to leave them to be together and she is their only daughter.

"We could go back to the UK and we are also looking at Canada.

"I want to continue with my flying and we need to be close to her family. Wendy will be living in exile from her own country.

"America is supposed to be the land of the free."

Untold stories

Britain, Canada, South Africa and most west European countries have immigration policies that recognise single sex couples.

Ms Ryan has become a co-ordinator for the San Francisco chapter of Immigration Equality, a US organisation backing efforts to change the law.

It is trying to drum up support for The Permanent Partners Immigration Act, which would give single-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual ones.

"Basically it would allow recognition of our relationship for immigration purposes," said Ms Ryan.

"There are so many Americans and their loved ones who having to live in exile.

"People talk about thousands and thousands but there is no way of knowing the numbers.

"There are so many untold stories because people in our community are too frightened to tell their stories.

"They wait until there is two or three months left to go before the visa runs out and they find out about our group and ask can we help, but there is nothing we can do.

Supreme Court

"All we can say is there's hope if we could get this legislation passed."

Earlier this year the couple were one of more than 4,000 married in San Francisco by mayor Gavin Newsom.

But on Thursday the marriages were annulled by the Supreme Court of California that ruled he had overstepped his authority.

The ruling led to protests by gay rights campaigners but Ms Ryan said it did not affect their immigration situation.

"Each state has its own laws but immigration comes under federal law," she explained.

"I believe that we will be successful as everybody should be treated equally.

"We would love to have a family and adopt children but there is no way we can do this with this uncertainty there."




SEE ALSO:
California annuls gay marriages
12 Aug 04  |  Americas


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