August 27, 2007
Reunite this family
Posted by: Chris
Another happy gay couple, this one married in Massachusetts, faces forced separation after the U.S. denied the asylum request made by Genesio Januario Oliveira, who has now returned to Brazil.
Tim Coco, 46, runs a successful advertising agency in Haverhill, Mass. Six years ago he met Genesio Januario Oliveira, who was visiting Boston on vacation from his home in Brazil. The two fell in love and in 2005, under rights protected by the Massachusetts Constitution, they were married. Since then, they have lived happily and quietly in a Boston suburb with their dog, Q-Tip.
Except that two weeks ago Oliveira was forced to return to Brazil under orders from the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals, which denied his application for the asylum status he hoped would allow him to stay in the United States with his husband. The couple needed to pursue the asylum route because their same-sex marriage is not recognized by the federal government, and federal laws supersede states' when it comes to immigration.
The culprit here isn't so much the standard for asylum as the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents Coco from sponsoring his spouse for U.S. citizenship, as countless heterosexual Americans have done for decades.
Relief for Coco and Oliveira will not come easily. Asking the U.S. Supreme Court to find the Defense of Marriage Act an unconstitutional violation of civil rights is a long shot at best. Building support in Congress to revisit the Defense of Marriage Act is a better strategy, but one that still could take several years. The most promising solution now probably is a bill in Congress that would establish "permanent partnership" status for unmarried couples so that a US citizen could sponsor a foreign-born partner for immigration.
Actually, I'm inclined to believe repealing Section 3 of DOMA — or getting it declared unconstitutional — may prove easier than passing UAFA, the Uniting American Families Act. Either way, Coco and Oliveira now face forced separation or expatriation — the same horribly unfair Sophie's Choice confronting some 35,000 binational gay couples, including me and my partner.
Please help reunite this family.
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