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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 13, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 19
SGN UPDATE: Judge reprieves immigrant in same-sex marriage deportation
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SGN UPDATE: Judge reprieves immigrant in same-sex marriage deportation

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

On May 6, an immigration judge in Newark suspended the deportation of a Venezuelan man who is married to an American man. The reprieve is said to be a response to a signal from the Obama administration that it is exploring legal avenues for recognizing same-sex marriage in immigration cases.

Henry Velandia of Venzuela was legally married to Josh Vandiver in Connecticut last year. Sadly, Velandia was denied legal residency because under the federal DOMA law, immigration authorities do not recognize same-sex marriage.

At the May 6 hearing, the couple waited with trepidation, almost resigned to the fact that they would be split apart, as immigration authorities said that was the final step before deportation.

Unbeknownst to the couple, the previous day, Attorney General Eric Holder intervened in a different immigration case involving a same-sex couple, suspending the deportation of a man from Ireland and sending his case back to the immigration appeals court, asking it to consider several possible grounds on which the man might qualify for legal residency.

Citing Holder's move, Judge Alberto J. Riefkohl of Newark postponed Velandia's deportation until December because, he said, he wanted to allow time for the attorney general and the appeals court to work out whether a Gay partner might be able to qualify for residency.

'We know this is just a reprieve,' said Vandiver. 'But every day we can have together is invaluable.'

Gay advocacy groups said the recent developments are a sign that the Obama administration is working to bring equality to its policy on same-sex marriage. In February, the White House said DOMA discriminates unconstitutionally against LGBT persons.

Holder said the administration would no longer defend DOMA in court, but would continue to enforce it until the courts reached a decision on whether it was constitutional.

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