When we hear this tried crap about Obama being too busy for gay rights, and how he’s got bigger things to deal with, it helps, but remains unfortunate, that we have stories like Genesio “Junior” Oliveira and Joe Smith (a fake name) — two men forced to leave the United States because this nation endorses discrimination.
Wasn’t assistant attorney general Tom Perez — Obama’s “civil rights czar” — just saying how he was going to stick up for queers? Yes, he was: “We must fight for fairness and basic equality for our LGBT brothers and sisters who so frequently are being left in the shadows [and to] ensure that there’s a level playing field in which our LGBT brothers and sisters are judged by the content of their character.”
So how come it’s Perez’s own Justice Department that just let expire an asylum claim from Oliveira, who was raped in his native Brazil and fled to the U.S. seeking safety from homophobic attacks. The application was denied, but before being forced to return to Brazil in 2007, he and partner Tim Coco legally married in Massachusetts in 2005.
Except, guess what, the Defense of Marriage Act means the federal government doesn’t recognize that marriage — so without an asylum claim, Oliveira has no legal standing to remain in the U.S. (The AP notes “Oliveira was denied a visa to return to Massachusetts last year for the funeral of Coco’s mother.” The pair haven’t seen each other since January, though they web chat every night.) Even with Massachusetts’ U.S. Sen. John Kerry lobbying Attorney General Eric Holder on his behalf, Oliveira is out of options. And $250,000 in legal fees.
Oh, there is this option: Suing the government in federal court, claiming DOMA is unconstitutional. Even Obama agrees it is! And yet, he refuses to instruct his underlings to see the law’s faults and reconcile how keeping Oliveira in the U.S. would be a human rights WIN.
And then there’s the case of D.C.’s Steve Orner and his foreign partner, identified only as “Joe Smith,” who testified before Congress on Friday about binational gay couples, two days after he said goodbye to Smith, who was forced to return to his native Indonesia. Smith, who holds a PhD from an American school, had been approved for a green card, but lost his job before his visa came through. But there’s no such thing as the Uniting American Families Act yet, which means Smith returns to his closeted life in Indonesia, where being gay can get you arrested.
But hey, what else can you expect from AG Holder? While he was busy reciting Obama’s gay talking points on Friday at a University of Maine lecture — DOMA bad! DADT bad! — he reminded everyone that he must still uphold those laws on the books. And as for his prescient arrival in a state whose same-sex marriage fate is about to be decided? “[The president and I] are of the view it is for states to make these decisions. That federal law [DOMA] is not necessarily a good piece of legislation, and we are going to work to repeal it.”
You know, whenever.