My wife, Laurie Hart, and I both came out later in life. She was 34 and I was 42, so that was the first of many hurdles we had to get over. We had both previously been married to men and had three children between us, so to many of our family members and friends, this was a very big shock. But we overcame it because we knew we had to be true to ourselves. The hardest part was telling our children and trying to explain it to them, but the wonderful thing is that, over the years, each of them has proven their acceptance and love for us as a couple and we couldn't have wished for three greater sons.
Laurie and I met online back in 2005. I am from England and at the time I was living in a small West Sussex village and she was living across the pond in Massachusetts. Ours was an incredible connection and we knew almost immediately that there was something very special between us. For our first date I flew from London to Boston and we spent eight incredible days together, which proved our love was real. Right there and then we knew we had to be together but we had no idea how complicated that was going to be, or what battles we faced ahead.
We married in both countries in 2006, just so everyone from both countries could see our commitment to one another. At that incredibly happy time we had no idea the U.S. government was going to try to come between us and our marriage.
Even though we married in Massachusetts -- where at the time same-sex marriage was recognized -- I was forced to leave the United States regularly because the federal government didn't recognize our marriage. This not only drained all our finances but I also often encountered problems at border control when re-entering the United States. There were times I was sent down for interrogation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and made to feel like a criminal because I was married to an American woman rather than a man!
As often as possible Laurie would travel back to England with me but on one particular occasion she couldn't come because her father was very ill and had become totally incapacitated. When I arrived back into the United States -- and yet again was sent down for interrogation -- I felt physically sick when, after lengthy questioning, I was told that this was the last time I would be allowed back in the country and that I had to stay out for at least a year or I might not be allowed back in for another 10 years! This was devastating news and I fell sobbing into my wife's arms when finally I made it through to arrivals. My wife and my home was now here and I had no idea what to do!
We immediately sought out the advice of various LGBT immigration experts. They told us we had to either go under the radar, which meant I could never leave the United States and visit my family, or over the radar, which meant we had to tell our story to everyone and anyone who would listen. So we chose to go over the radar and set out on a social media frenzy. We wrote many op-ed pieces about our situation. This was the best thing I ever did. Sharing our story not only helped me and my wife, but it also helped all LGBT because our efforts helped bring about marriage equality in the United States.
It has been a tough battle because some people, of course, were not always kind with their comments towards us. But the incredible messages we received from gay people who thanked us for being their voice by far out weighed the negative comments.
Laurie and I traveled to Washington, D.C. recently and the first place we had to go was the Supreme Court. As I sat in the court room next to Laurie it was a powerful feeling knowing that the ruling for same sex marriage had been made right there. I'd come from this sleepy village in England, fell in love with an American woman, moved my life here and together we had played a small part in making history for equality!
I am now 52 and through everything I have become stronger. I realize the importance of being a voice to help others. Laurie and I have written -- and are now producing -- a short docudrama, STATUS UNKNOWN, about our true story. We filmed at Logan airport, which was very emotional not only because it was the place we first met but also because it was where our fight for equality began.
We've come full circle and only hope our film will inspire change towards greater LGBT acceptance.