Passport to Nothing

Bert Menninga
Jul 8, 2013 · 2 min read

The demise of DOMA came too late for my husband. Sure, as a Swedish man legally married to an American man here in Sweden, it looks like he finally has the right to live in the U.S. if he would want to. But he has no interest. Mainly due to a long ago ugly incident at O’Hare Airport.

This was before they instituted all the extra security measures that they’ve added over the past decade, the removing of shoes, the fingerprinting and special passports. We stood in line at passport control and made the mistake of going up to the immigration officer together. She was probably 25, although with the pasty skin and squinty eyes of someone far older. We presented our passports – my blue U.S. passport, my husband’s maroon Swedish passport.

She looked at them, frowning.

“Why are you up here together? How are you related?” she asked us.

“We’re married,” I said.

She started to shake in anger.

“We don’t believe in that here,” she finally spat out viciously. “Don’t EVER come in line together again.” And with a great show of disgust, she stamped our passports and waved us on.

I can’t begin to describe how humiliating it was. And how frightening, since we knew full well how the people stamping passports have absolute power to decide who gets in and who doesn’t, and it was obvious that she would have sent us back to Sweden if given half a chance. It ruined the beginning of our trip. And my husband has never forgotten it. “Land of the free,” he says, voice dripping with sarcasm.

So as we watched the news on TV of the end of DOMA, when one of our friends asked him whether he would ever consider moving to the U.S., he said: “Land of the free? Never.”

“At least it means we can go up to passport control together,” I said.

“I don’t believe you,” he answered.

I couldn’t answer, because to be honest, I don’t know. But I hope so. I do hope so.

    Bert Menninga

    Written by

    American editor in Stockholm working for the media company Bonnier (my tweets are my own opinions and not Bonnier's. Just so you know.)

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