Massachusetts Senator John Kerry has asked the Obama administration to intervene on behalf of a gay man married to a U.S. citizen in Massachusetts who is seeking asylum from Brazil, The Associated Press reports.

Tim Coco and Genesio “Junior” Oliveira have been separated since August 2007 when the government forced one of the men to return to Brazil.

Coco, of Haverhill, Massachusetts, and Oliveira met in 2002, when Oliveira was on vacation. The pair married three years later in Massachusetts, the first state to legalize gay marriage.

Oliveira, a Brazilian citizen, requested asylum to remain in the country upon his return to the United States to live, soon after the two men met. He claimed that as a teenager he was raped and attacked by a physician.

Senator Kerry sent a letter asking for intervention in the matter to Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday.

In Immigration Judge Francis Cramer's order denying asylum, he said the man “was never physically harmed” by the rape. Kerry called the order “outrageous.”

“Tim and Junior have played by the rules since day one,” Kerry told the news agency. “Junior's asylum claim is a legitimate one and has been recognized as such.”

Kerry said Judge Cramer found Oliveira's fear of persecution in Brazil based on his sexual orientation to be genuine.

The right to sponsor an immigrant spouse to become a U.S. citizen is denied to gay and lesbian couples under the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Kerry is not asking for an exception to that rule; he's asking Obama officials to grant asylum to Oliveira.

Liberal media outlets quickly pounced on that difference.

“[T]hat [Kerry's request] misses the point entirely,” the Huffington Post wrote. “Oliveira should not have to apply for asylum to live with his husband. And Coco, an American citizen, should not have to give up his life partner just because a judge didn't think Oliveira had been sufficiently traumatized by experiences in his past.”

“Their relationship isn't being treated equally,” Rachel Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, which advocates for gay and lesbian immigrants, told the AP, “and at the end of the day, hardworking American citizens who play by the rules are forced to choose between their country and the people they love.”

Kerry, however, has also introduced legislation that would grant married gay and lesbian couples the same rights to immigration sponsorship as heterosexual couples.

While in the U.S., Oliveira began attending community college to learn English, with the goal of becoming a physician.