Document Type


Publication Date



An unprecedented number of American citizens faced the challenge o f being in a nonheterosexual binational relationship when the Defense o f Marriage Act (DOMA) was the law of the land. Although immigration laws are based on the principle o f family unification, under previous federal law lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans were not able to sponsor their samesex foreign national partners for residency in the United States. Consequently, an estimated 36,000 couples faced the threat of family separation because Am erica’s immigration policies narrowed the definition of “family” to exclude same-sex couples and their children. Despite the fact that family researchers indicate that long periods of separation have harmful effects on the family, immigration law denied non-heterosexual binational families the basic right of family unity afforded many of their heterosexual counterparts. Non-heterosexual binational couples were forced to learn how to function in a social system while dealing with heterosexism, overt discrimination, violence and the psychological symptoms that result from helplessness. My dissertation explored the ways in which non-heterosexual binational families struggled to keep their families together as a result of the discriminatory ways in which DOMA defined marriage.

The purpose of this study was to increase knowledge of how binational non-heterosexual couples and families thrived in a heterosexist society that legitimizes discriminatory immigration policies and sexual prejudice. O f particular interest were the personal and relational strengths and resources that positively affected their achievement. Utilizing a narrative analysis qualitative research approach, I partnered with four non-heterosexual binational couples to understand their shared realities and collective stories. The socio-cultural settings in which these couples remarkably dealt with adversity were learned using a semi-structured interview process. I transcribed their stories and analyzed the information using a categorical aggregation approach. This literature contribution is significant in that it studies an invisible population and adds to the way that mental health providers understand family dynamics specific to same-sex binational families.