Wanaka married couple Kate Bariletti and Jan Janata are
delighted their same-sex marriage is now recognised in some
American states. Photo by Mark Price.
Otago's first same-sex couple to be married are moving to
the United States, taking advantage of the recent change there
in attitude and laws concerning gay marriage.
Kate Bariletti and Jan Janata, of Wanaka, married in
Alexandra on August 19 last year, the day the Marriage
(Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act came into effect.
They were among 31 same-sex couples married that day.
But they have also been keen followers of changing attitudes
and laws in the United States.
Ms Bariletti was born in the US so has always had the right
to live and work there.
Ms Janata was born in New Zealand and because their marriage
- and before that, their 2005 civil union - was not
recognised in the US, moving there was problematic.
Then, in a landmark speech in 2012, US President Barack Obama
announced he favoured legalising same-sex marriages.
Ms Bariletti, never especially patriotic, celebrated that day
by baking American-style pumpkin muffins in paper cups
displaying the Stars and Stripes.
Ms Bariletti said, since then, gay couples had achieved equal
rights in those states that recognise gay marriage, including
Washington, the state she is from.
That meant they could now have joint health insurance, joint
property ownership and each partner would be recognised as
the next-of-kin of the other - something that did not apply
''Honestly, we never thought we would see that in our life
time,'' Ms Bariletti (65) told the Otago Daily Times.
''Back in the '70s and '80s, there was just no way that I
could even imagine that my country would allow that.
''I feel like I have been a refugee from my country for all
this time because Jan could not legally live in the United
States with me as my spouse.''
Both women have travelled extensively but are in search of a
Added to that, the high New Zealand dollar has devalued Ms
Bariletti's American pension and financially they believe
they will be at least as well off there as they are here.
Their plan is to buy a large pick-up truck with an RV, or
''fifth wheel'' - referred to as a ''rig'', they say - and
travel around the states.
Ms Janata said: ''We don't know when we pull out of wherever
we buy the rig from whether we are going to turn left or
They do expect to spend winters in the south and some time in
Ms Bariletti's home state of Washington.
However, although New Zealand and American attitudes to gay
marriage have changed, not so Ms Bariletti's elderly,
''devout Catholic, Italian, republican'' parents.
''They just cannot accept this relationship.''
The couple say they met on a ''lesbian love boat'' cruise to
Alaska in 1996.
''Within three months, I had uprooted myself and moved to New
Zealand to be with Jan,'' Ms Bariletti said.
One of their main tasks before facing immigration officials
in the US was to obtain a ''green card'' so Ms Janata could
The application documents sent to the American consulate
general in Auckland weighed 1kg.
Ms Bariletti said the ''beautiful thing'' about their plans
would be having the same freedom they had had when they went
travelling as ''kids''.
''That's come back to us.''