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
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.