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    August 27, 2007

    Reunite this family

    Posted by: Chris

    300h 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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    1. Alan down in Florida on Aug 27, 2007 12:51:14 PM:

      I realize this idea is a bizarre longshot but hey - I never was in that box you're supposed to think outside of.

      Why not petition the legislature to declare him a citizen of the state of Massachusetts? If the state, under the U.S. Constitution, has the right to decide it's own marriage laws it probably also has the right to decide who can and cannot live there.

      Admittedly this would probably restrict his movements to within the state, but it would buy time and allow him to remain with his husband.

      What d'ya think Chris? Any merit?

    1. Andoni on Aug 27, 2007 6:53:21 PM:

      This story should be shouted from the roof tops.

      This case demonstrates in a way all can understand, how wrong, unfair, and punitive our laws are. If the gay community can’t get behind this couple in an effort pass UAFA or repeal Section 3 of DOMA, we really don’t have enough energy or enthusiasm as a movement or a community.

      Another avenue of attaching this particular situation might be to offer a very specific piece of legislation to over rule DOMA for immigration purposes by adding a simple sentence to the Immigration and Nationalization Act which says that (for the purposes of “preference” for family re-unification) a family is defined as any couple whose marriage is legally recognized by the state they are residing in at the time of their application and their legal natural or adopted children.

      I’m not a lawyer, but I would think that a law passed that post dates DOMA and defines what a family is for immigration preference should over rule DOMA (because it was passed AFTER DOMA) on this one issue. What do you lawyers think?

    1. Brian Miller on Aug 27, 2007 9:35:19 PM:

      This has been a persistent problem and happened to me and my French partner when I was in my early 20s about 8 years ago.

      Back then, gay Democrats told me to "get over myself" and support anti-gay Democrats since they were better than anti-gay Republicans -- that our relationship wasn't as important as "national health care" or the left wing cause du jour.

      Fast forward to the primary debates in 2007, and lo and behold, the two top candidates for the Democratic nomination (and all the Republican nominees) are opposed to UAFA, which has been buried by the political establishment.

      And people wonder why I vote Libertarian!

      (Incidentally, a legal challenge to DOMA is likely going to be in the cards -- no thanks to national partisan gay groups like Stonewall, Log Cabin or HRC, all of which have opposed a grassroots effort of constitutional challenges to guarantee the equal protection clause that's so inconvenient to the Demopublicans).

      And one other postscript -- if Mr. Coco was a foreign national as well, and being transferred to the United States as a green card holder or work permit holder, the State Department would issue a residency permit to his partner as well. This was done as a result of large corporations who hire employees in "skill shortage" areas from abroad, who were losing key hires due to the Clinton/Gingrich DOMA law.

      The Democrats and Republicans have so little regard for the rights of gay US citizens that they actually provide more rights to non-citizens -- and they're in no hurry to change this anytime soon. That's why a contribution to, or vote for, Clinton, Obama, Romney and Giuliani, are all self-defeating for people who care about equality.

    1. Tim C on Aug 28, 2007 8:15:08 AM:

      This story *should* be shouted from the rooftops. Will the mainstream press really ever mention it? Probably not, and most Americans will remain unaware of the human toll these stupid policies cause.

      It is a shame that Oliveria is not an illiterate Guatemalan farm worker - he could probably get some sort of amnesty. And if he were a pregnant female illiterate Guatemalan farm worker whom the government was trying to deport, people would be marching in the streets in protest.

      But he's not. He's just gay and legally married to an American citizen. Out he goes. Has anyone heard from the MA Congressional delegation? Ted? John? Barney?

      The unhappy saga of Senator Craig will undoubtedly wipe this story right off the map. This story doesn't skewer any Republicans, there's nothing for the left to chortle about, it has the possibility of making the Democratic Presidential front-runners look bad. We may never hear any more about it. It's just a little tragedy.

    1. Brian Miller on Aug 28, 2007 8:45:48 PM:

      Gay and lesbian people should just start marrying our friends of the opposite sex for access to these sorts of benefits.

      Lesbian from Sweden who wants to live with your partner in New York? Marry one of your partner's gay friends, and then have the lesbian New Yorker marry his partner. You get health care, immigration rights, etc. all wrapped up.

      As long as the marriage isn't "only for immigration purposes," you'll be fine (and you could easily argue it isn't -- it's also for security and companionship!)

      If millions of gay people started doing this sort of thing -- replete with prenuptuals and frequent divorces when the arrangements become untenable -- most of the anti-gay crap would crumble into dust and even the religious right would be in a rush to make marriage equality a reality.

      After all, marriage would become nothing more than a legal status used by people seeking convenience, the divorce rate would soar, everyone who needs benefits would get them through employer-spouse agreements -- and as the religious right says, "gay marriage isn't illegal, just be gay and marry the opposite sex."

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