Otts Bolisay, who had spent more than half his life in the US on various immigration visas, was approaching the end of the line.
Bolisay, who’s originally from the Bahamas, and his partner Ken Thompson knew they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, ideally here in the US.
In February, when KUOW first wrote about the couple, their fate hinged on Congress passing immigration reform, which hasn’t happened, or on the federal government recognizing same-sex marriage.
That decision rested with the US Supreme Court.
“One guy in a black robe made a difference, right?” said Ken Thompson. “He could have voted a different way, in which case our story right now would be completely different.”
In June, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. With the decision, same-sex couples became entitled to the same federal benefits of marriage: tax breaks, Social Security benefits and immigration rules for spouses.
The ruling meant that Thompson and Bolisay could get married, which meant that Thompson could sponsor Bolisay for a green card.
“It was really unbelievable,” Thompson said. “It was just that sign of a potential beginning of the end for us. A resolution. I think I cried that morning.”
Bolisay: “Yeah, Ken cried. I was just numb with disbelief.”
Thompson and Bolisay had been together for more than a decade when the justices handed down their ruling. They owned a house and two cats together, but they always felt their future was up in the air, because Bolisay couldn’t become a US citizen.
When DOMA crumbled, Bolisay said he “felt this expanding sense of belonging.”
“This is our house, this is my neighborhood, this is our home,” he said.
Washington state voters approved gay marriage in November 2012, but that wouldn’t have helped their situation. It did, however, allow them to get married a year later, almost to the day.
Going through photos from their marriage recently, they pointed out poignant images:
“This is us waiting in the Redmond courthouse,” Bolisay said.
“Here’s a picture of the judge signing paperwork and my mother applauding,” Thompson added.
“What feels different is being able to refer to Ken as my husband,” Bolisay said. “I kind of trip on the words, then I realize that it feels good to say.”