When Sgt. Michael Ferschke died in Iraq, the U.S. Marines recognized that Hotaru Ferschke was his wife. But because she was married to him by proxy when he was in Iraq and since he died before they could meet again, a 1950s US legal standard intended to root out fraud says that their marriage is not valid since it was not consummated. This standard is held even though they have a child together and even though the US military recognizes their marriage. Hotaru Ferschke just wants to raise her 8-month-old son, Michael “Mikey” Ferschke III, in his grandparents’ Tennessee home, surrounded by photos and memories of the father he’ll never meet. She and her son are there on a temporary visa after her request for permanent residency was denied.
Historian Nancy Cott, who wrote a book called “Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation,” said proxy marriages have been commonly used by Japanese and Korean immigrants to America. But Cott said U.S immigration authorities have never liked this type of marriage “because it is inconsistent with Western Christian ideas of how marriage takes place.”
Efforts are underway to get a private bill passed in Congress to allow Hotaru Ferschke and her son to say, but it is unknown if it can be passed before they are required to leave in January 2010.