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John Kerry Requests Asylum for Brazilian Gay Man Married in MA

John Kerry has come to the aid of a Brazilian man, Genesio "Junior" Oliveira, who requested asylum in the U.S. in 2002. In 2005, he was married in Massachusetts to his husband Tim Coco, but the couple have been separated since 2007 when Oliveira was sent back to Brazil after his asylum requests and appeals were denied.

Oliveira_coco The AP reports: "Oliveira asked for asylum in 2002, saying he was raped and attacked by a physician as a teenager in Brazil and feared persecution because of his sexuality. The Associated Press does not typically name rape victims, but Oliveira speaks openly about his case and allows his name to be used. In a letter sent Thursday to Attorney General Eric Holder, Kerry said Immigration Judge Francis Cramer found Oliveira’s testimony to be credible and his fear of living in Brazil genuine. However the judge denied the claim, saying the man 'was never physically harmed,' something Kerry called 'outrageous.' ... 'Tim and Junior have played by the rules since day one,' Kerry said. 'Junior’s asylum claim is a legitimate one and has been recognized as such.' The Executive Office for Immigration Review will not confirm or deny whether an immigrant has requested asylum. The Department of Justice said Holder would review the letter."

Cases like these are why the Uniting American Families Act, which was recently reintroduced, is so important. As well, of course, as the repeal of DOMA which prevents the federal government from recognizing anything other than a heterosexual marriage.

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  1. How sad. This guy could have entered into a sham marriage with a woman, but chose to be honest. Now he's being punished.

    Posted by: PatrickPatrick | Mar 20, 2009 5:49:48 PM


  2. Everything about this situation is bullshit, and pretty handily demonstrates how far gays and lesbians have to come towards getting equal, humane treatment under the law.

    Can anyone possibly imagine a Law Judge describing a woman's rape as "not physically harming" her? (G-d, sadly, maybe my indignation is naive: Law Judges are often far more ignorant than I'd ever have imagined.)

    Of course, were this an opposite-sex couple, there'd be no asylum issue, whatsoever: Oliveira could have applied for citizenship on the basis of his validly celebrated marriage, rather than having the uphill battle of an asylum proceeding.

    (Notably, Oliviera's marriage has full recognition under Massachusetts' law. DOMA is ridiculously awful legislation: what a crap legacy for the Clinton administration.)

    Incidentally, the Law Judge applied the wrong standard: "fear of persecution" doesn't require a showing of prior physical harm. (Although, that can overcome a petitioner's evidentiary burden.) Further, that not withstanding, there are literally hundreds of examples in the case law where a history of rape (of both men and women) has been found to substantiate a fear of prosecution.

    I wrote my note for my law journal on this topic in 2006. Nice to see all the progress that's been made in the interim.

    Props to Kerry for his attempted intervention, though. This really is a travesty.

    Posted by: Stephen | Mar 20, 2009 5:52:45 PM


  3. Unfortunately, this sort of attitude is very common. Immigration judges usually presume asylum seekers are lying. This is one area of law where it seems everyone is "guilty" until proven innocent.

    The horror stories are not limited to the United States. Canadian and British courts have tried to deport gay men to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and other countries where homosexuality is punishable by death. They often justify their decision with glib reasoning like "homosexuals can always stay in the closet." As if that were really a viable option: Just fight the gay urge and you won't get beheaded. Bye-bye now.

    Posted by: John in CA | Mar 21, 2009 12:17:55 AM


  4. How saaad. Im in a similar situation. Im Mexicano and my boyfriend is from the US. we both live in the border, I live and worked in Mexico and He lives at texas´ Valley. Every weekend I drive 3 hours from my city to his city (sometimes he visits me too) and I wait 1 hour in line to enter the US with my tourist visa. If you guys have been in loved you know how it feels to be apart even from 1 day. When I go back to Mexico I get really worry... I love to be by his side to check if he is eating ok and to make sure that he is ok...and I cant sleep without him.

    Of course Im in a third world country so he makes more money than me, So it is not an option from him to move to Mexico..and Im not the husband type that stays at the house... I love to work too. So by now we come and go. Ive been looking for options... so this brazilian situation makes me sad...they were already married AND HE WASNT ABLE TO STAY....so saaaad. I´ll pray form them to be togheter again ASAP.

    Posted by: Pedro | Mar 21, 2009 6:55:05 AM


  5. This is absolutely ridiculous!!! I really hope that the Obama Administration will take a stand and do something to rectify this horrible mistake!! The Unites States of America used to be a country about Human Rights! Other countries used to look up to us .....what happened? this story saddened my to tears!!! I wish all of the bi-national couples the best and will do wherever it takes to make sure that this mistake gets the attention it deserves!!

    Posted by: Steven | Mar 21, 2009 1:01:57 PM


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