Matthew Hynd and Ali Choundry first met online in 2010, when Ali was studying Zoology at the University of Queensland in Australia and Matt was working stateside with the New York State Department of Health. After many months of phone calls, texts and Skype dates, the pair met in Australia, where they immediately fell in love and decided to build a life together.
Matt and Ali were the sixth official couple to be married in Australia when a law allowing same-sex marriage took effect in March 2012. They plan to celebrate four years together this Valentine’s Day, but Australia’s recent ban of the law threatens to rip them apart before then.
One week after moving into their first apartment together, Ali received notification from the Australian government that his student visa would not be renewed because the state considers him as “not in a long-standing relationship with [his] sponsor.” Finding that his marital status had virtually changed overnight, Ali is now threatened with deportation.
As a Pakistani man, Ali says he fears life imprisonment as an openly gay man in his home country:
When I first received the letter that my case had been denied, I was actually thinking more of Matt. I received the letter on Friday and we had a surprise birthday planned for him on the Saturday (even though his birthday wasn’t till the 18th). I kept it all to myself to protect him and at least let him have that little bit of happiness. It’s all really poetic, really… I think.When I finally told him on Sunday, we were still both in shock and not really reacting except for bursts of tears between not feeling much.
After spending over $15,000 on legal fees and visa filing charges, the couple took their story to crowd-sourcing site Pozible and was surprised by overwhelming support. Though they’ve raised enough funds to have Ali’s application reviewed by a Migration Review Tribunal, their future is still not secure. Australia must now decide if it thinks five years of a gay relationship is “long-standing” enough to grant citizenship.