After falling in love and marrying, Francesca Martin and Gudrun Scheffler find themselves at risk of being torn apart: When Scheffler’s work visa expires in September, they will be forced to separate or leave the country, because the federal government refuses to recognize their union.

Scheffler, who hails from Germany, and Martin, a U.S. citizen, got married in Connecticut in 2009. They have been together for 12 years.

They are among an estimated 36,000 same-sex couples nationwide who face expulsion because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The 1996 law, which President Obama recently criticized as unconstitutional, defines marriage exclusively as between a man and woman. A lesser-noticed section of the law prevents U.S. citizens from sponsoring their same-sex spouses for green cards, even if their marriage is recognized by their state.

Click here to continue reading Melissa’s report.