Friday, July 31, 2009

American Gays and Lesbians find refuge - and a truly unique wedding venue - in the Netherlands


From Love Exiles Foundation

Amsterdam, the Netherlands – Four hundred years after Henry Hudson first set sail from Amsterdam to Manhattan, more and more gay and lesbian Americans are making the journey in reverse – and not just for an enjoyable vacation.

On Saturday, August 1, five American citizens will marry their Dutch partners in a ceremony presided by Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen. While same-sex weddings are nothing unusual in the Netherlands, these ones will take place on a boat in the middle of Amsterdam's annual Gay Pride canal parade.

The unusual wedding venue is meant to highlight painful inequalities in U.S. marriage and immigration law. While these couples are free to marry and live in the Netherlands, they do not enjoy the same freedom in the United States.

Even in states that allow same-sex couples to marry, like Iowa and Connecticut, these couples are not recognized by the U.S. federal government, which controls all immigration matters. As a result, thousands of US citizens are forced into exile in countries like the Netherlands, where their relationships with their foreign partners are recognized and where they enjoy equal rights in family law.

Couples married overseas may even have trouble going to the U.S. for a short visit. Their marriage can be seen by U.S. immigration authorities as a sign that they intend to remain in the U.S. together. Same-sex spouses have been turned away at the border and refused entry for this very reason.

"The debate over immigration reform is about to get underway in the U.S. Congress," said Martha McDevitt-Pugh, a U.S. citizen who lives by necessity in Amsterdam with her Dutch-Australian wife. "The question is: will our families be included in this legislation and will we finally be able to return home?"

The City of Amsterdam has invited McDevitt-Pugh to represent the love exile community on their wedding boat. "These marriages send a message to our leaders in Washington: it’s time to honor and respect all our families”, she said.


The Love Exiles Foundation is a Netherlands- based organization that advocates for same-sex couples who lack the right to live in one or both or their home countries due to discriminatory immigration law. Love Exiles communities in the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Canada, and Australia provide support to US citizens who are forced into exile to be with their foreign partners.

Martha McDevitt-Pugh is the Founder and Chair of the Love Exiles Foundation.

Martha is available for interviews by calling 06 2150 4249 (in the Netherlands) or +31 6 2150 4249 (from outside the Netherlands) or emailing exiles@xs4all. nl
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