Tig, a psychotherapist, commutes from Toronto every other
week to see his patients in Carrboro, and Siddhivarn, a periodontal
surgeon, is scouting graduate schools to qualify to practice
really is a country where equal means equal and you don't
have to fight for it," said Tig, 47, who expects to be a Canadian
citizen in three years.
marriages are allowed in Ontario, and legislation is pending
to legalize them across Canada. Yet the men say they haven't
yet made their own wedding plans.
still reeling from having our lives uprooted so drastically,"
of same-sex couples in the United States face similar legal
obstacles. The Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force
in New York City is lobbying for U.S. laws to respect long-term
same-sex relationships between Americans and foreign citizens
-- knowing it may be a long time before the United States
recognizes gay marriage, if ever.
proposed Permanent Partners Immigration Act would give gay
partners the same rights as married couples if they can prove
they have a long-term, financially interdependent relationship,
among other criteria. The legislation faces an uphill battle,
but it has 108 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives,
including Rep. Brad Miller, a Raleigh Democrat and the only
co-sponsor from North Carolina. Miller said it is the right
thing to do.
former neighbors and relatives of Tig and 37-year-old Siddhivarn
support the bill. "Most couples would have been shredded
by what the men have experienced," said Dr. Cory Annis,
one of the couple's closest friends, who practices in Carrboro.
really is a very pointed thing to realize they can immigrate
to Canada so easily, and they can even be married there,"
she said. "But here.we're not even close to recognizing gay
and lesbian people as equal citizens."
described Tig and Siddhivarn as opposites who attracted. Tig,
an outgoing guy, works in the world of emotions, specializing
in helping gay clients in psychotherapy. He has been an activist
since 1974, when he helped start a gay student group at UNC-Chapel
Hill. In recent years, he co-founded the Ruby Slipper Dance
Asylum, which sponsors swing dances and lessons for gay couples.
more introverted Siddhivarn arrived at UNC-Chapel Hill in
1998 to complete a doctoral degree in oral biology. Siddhivarn's
world was science: researching how to stimulate growth in
the start, the men talked about how to keep Siddhivarn in
the United States, but his visa obligated him to leave after
completing his research. So they decided to move to Canada.
In January, while they were visiting Canada to take care of
paperwork for the move, U.S. officials canceled Siddhivarn's
visa. The men are unsure why, but he was not allowed to return.
Tig and Siddhivarn scrambled to find an apartment in Toronto.
Tig rushed back to Chapel Hill to pack their belongings --
and Siddhivarn's research materials so he could meet a 4-month
deadline to finish writing his PhD dissertation.
move has been tough: The couple faces more than $80,000 in
bills for immigration costs, legal fees, and other expenses
that have come about as a result of their decision to stay
together. To pay the bills, they are selling land on the Haw
River which they originally intended to use for retirement.
men plan to practice in Canada eventually, although it will
mean navigating various licensing processes and additional
graduate work for Siddhivarn at a Canadian college. For the
foreseeable future, Tig says he will continue commuting back
to his practice in Carrboro on alternating weeks.
said he once thought that America was a "great democracy country,
a land of freedom where everybody is welcome." But when he
arrived in the US in 1998, Siddhivarn said he was horrified
by the news of the death of Matthew Sheppard, and by politicians
who got by with public statements against gays.
then in January," said Siddhivarn, "when they cancelled my
visa and wouldn't let me go back to our home in North Carolina,
I just couldn't believe it was real." He said, "I will never
think of America in the same way."