Shehan Welihindha, 31, of Sri Lanka and his spouse, Ryan Wilson, 29, live in South Carolina, a state that bans same-sex marriage. They were among the first seven couples to get married in Maryland -- Wilson grew up in Baltimore -- on New Year's Day after that state approved same-sex marriage last fall.

But now, with an expiration date on Welihindha's student visa, they're considering Canada.

Welihindha watched his brother marry an American woman and become a citizen. His younger sister married an American man and within a very short time, she received her green card. But when Welihindha's visa expires, he will either have to find a job with a company that might sponsor him or leave.

"When we think about graduation or starting a family, it takes us back to that root conversation about immigration," said Welihindha from his home in Columbia, South Carolina.

In all, 31 countries recognize same-sex relationships for immigration purposes. Some, like Great Britain, don't have legalized same-sex marriage but still recognize same-sex couples.

That's why Brandon Perlberg, 35, abandoned his law career in New York and moved to London to be with his partner, Benn Storey. Even though the state of New York approved same-sex marriage in 2011, a wedding was not going to help when Storey's temporary work visa ran out.

"You don't get more committed than giving up your country," Perlberg said. "That's the value DOMA was supposed to be protecting. Isn't marriage all about the sanctity of commitment?"

Perlberg is angry -- not at his partner but at his country -- for having to give up everything he cherished and begin again in a foreign land.

Psychology professor Nadine Nakamura is researching people like Perlberg and the emotional toll of having to live in exile for the sake of preserving a relationship.

"The whole situation of not knowing what the future holds and kind of having to wait with bated breath to see what politicians or the Supreme Court decides creates a great deal of anxiety," said Nakamura, who teaches at the University of La Verne in southern California. "A lot of same-sex binational couples have a hard time trying to figure out what their future looks like."

Barakoti said she has lived with that anxiety since she arrived in the United States in 2001, constantly filing paperwork for visa applications including an employer-based green card sponsorship that was rejected. It became so all-consuming that she decided not to fret about it anymore. She and Holder are bracing for a high court decision that will not be in their favor.

"Whatever they throw at us, we'll manage," Holder said.

They know one thing: No matter what, they will find a way to be together. But no one, they said, should have to choose between love and country.