(1965 - living) Thailand
Phan Datthuyawat and Tom Knutson have been able to remain together in the U.S. only as long as Datthuyawat, who also obtained a U.S. bachelor's degree, holds his student visa. When that time is up, Datthuyawat has no way to remain here unless a U.S. employer were to sponsor him, an unlikely option given how competitive such visas are and how few exist. The couple will inevitably face, they say, the same excruciating choice thousands of other same-sex binational couples in the United States face and are increasingly stepping forward to protest.
"I am a U.S. citizen being denied my rights as a U.S. citizen to live with and love who I want," said Knutson.
Tom Knutson is a fiscal conservative, registered Republican and a widely traveled professor of intercultural communications at California State University, Sacramento. "I've been to 42 countries, and I've always spread the word that we have rights in this country," said Knutson, who speaks Thai and has briefed U.S. Embassy personnel in Southeast Asia, urging them to "wave the flag and tell them Americans are good people."
"Now some of my friends," Knutson said, "suggest that I've been a hypocrite." The reason: Knutson is gay, and he and his partner of 15 years - a Thai national finishing a master's degree - may be forced to leave the United States within two years and live abroad if they want to remain together, probably in Thailand, possibly in Canada. "Thailand means 'the land of the free' in English. I thought that's what we were," said Knutson, 64, a professor in Sacramento for 28 years.