Our opinion: It takes a community to right a wrong
Late last week we were pleased to announce the resolution of a long-running injustice: For more than a decade, the partner of a Dummerston women was in limbo, wondering if she was going to be returned to her native Japan and separated from the woman, the town, the state and the country she has loved with all her heart.
But following the Supreme Court's decision that effectively dismantled the Defense of Marriage Act, Takako Ueda received her green card and can apply for permanent citizenship in three years.
Ueda and Frances Herbert first met 30 years ago while attending college in Michigan. After graduating, Ueda returned to Japan and spent 12 years in a heterosexual marriage, periodically exchanging letters with Herbert. In 1999, she divorced and moved to the United States to be with Herbert, staying in the country by applying for a student visa every semester.
They married in February 2011, but because of DOMA, Ueda lived under the threat of deportation. Even after Vermont's congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., was able to secure a temporary reprieve, without federal recognition of their marriage, the couple lived with the worry that their marriage was only as good as the paper it was written on.
And then DOMA fell.
On Sept. 3, Ueda and Herbert were told the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had approved Ueda's application for a green card.
"I was in a cage," said Ueda. " I couldn't do so many things, but now I can be free from those legal restrictions. I feel like a feather."
One of the reasons the recognition came so swiftly is the support the couple has received from their community and state and federal politicians.
Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch have been in their corner for the long haul and have lent their considerable political heft when it seemed Ueda and Herbert had received a knockout blow. On more than one occasion, the trio was there to help the couple get off the mat and back into the fight.
And time and time again, the couple's spirits were lifted by a passing remark or a casual show of support made by people in the community, many of whom they knew, but many more who they had never met before.
"We couldn't go anywhere ... someone at the grocery store or the gas station or downtown was always asking us how things were going," said Herbert. "It helped keep us up by having people show us how much they care."
At the 2012 Dummerston Town Meeting, a resolution in support of Ueda and Herbert was passed with overwhelming support.
Selectboard Chairman Zeke Goodband, who presented the resolution, said in one sentence what many of us feel about same-sex marriage: "They deserve the same rights and privileges that the rest of us enjoy."
All of us here at the Reformer are happy for Ueda and Herbert and are proud of everyone that rallied around them in their darkest moments. These are the kinds of events that define what is good and moral about a fellowship of people who come together to set a course for their community. While Ueda and Herbert are now free to get on with their lives, we should all treasure the bond that was forged in defense of their marriage and remember how much we can accomplish when we work together.
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