No government has the right to tell its citizens when or whom to love. The only queer people are those who don’t love anybody.

Rita Mae Brown

The “Reunite this Family” term was coined by the Boston Globe in an editorial in support of Tim Coco and Genesio “Junior” Oliveira.

“Great strides toward equality for gays have been made in this country, but the woeful fate of Tim Coco and Genesio Oliveira shows that thousands of same-sex couples, even in Massachusetts , still aren't really full citizens.”

“Reunite this Family,”
Globe, Aug. 27, 2007

Comments from Around the Globe

Michael & Rodenel (Oct. 18. 2011)

Genesio & Tim:

My Filipino fiancÚ, Rodenel Santos (Poknat), and I have been together more than 3 years now. Over the years, I have reached out to rights groups, attorneys, and my federal representatives. I’m disheartened to report that my efforts have thus far gotten us nowhere.

We’ve tried to work in an unjust system to be together, even if just temporarily. This year alone, I spent more than $10,000 trying to help Poknat establish ties to the Philippines with the purpose of obtaining a tourist visa to the US on his own merit; he was denied twice. I contacted Sen. Inouye’s office for help only to essentially be told, ‘Sorry, that’s the law.’ I’m frustrated that his gatekeeper equates our separation with any other family facing immigration difficulties; I feel she is overlooking the context of our circumstances and the daunting hurdles we face.

I was excited when I recently learned of you were granted a reprieve by way of humanitarian parole (a method I had not heard about before this). There was precedence!

I’d hoped Inouye’s office would emulate Kerry’s success, but my hopes were dashed. His office maintains the senator opposes DOMA, yet he won’t lift a finger to highlight the injustice perpetrated by this unjust, unconstitutional statute. ‘That’s not Sen. Inouye; he works in the system,’ I was told when I asked if he could personally call Napolitano.

Sadly, I was told the most Inouye’s office would do is ‘express interest’ in my case should I file a petition; Sen. Inouye, I was told, is not an ‘advocate’. Really?

Tired and frustrated, I desperately reach out to you for support. We, too, need a champion for our rights. As you can relate, our life has been put on hold, and the suffering caused by our forced separation is taking an enormous psychological and financial toll.

We need an advocate to fight with us. It's my hope you will join us and convince others from all levels of government, friends, the media, and rights groups to come on-board as well to fight for what’s right.

Thank you for your time and guidance.

-Michael Gifford (Kalbo)

Kieran (March 8, 2008)

Amerika the Homophobic
America has the most homophobic immigration policy. I’d move to Brazil to get away from there. Thank God I live in Canada.

Citizen Crane (Aug. 27, 2007)

Another happy gay couple, this one married in Massachusetts, faces forced separation after the U.S. denied the asylum request made by Genesio Januario Oliveira, who has now returned to Brazil.

The culprit here isn’t so much the standard for asylum as the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents Coco from sponsoring his spouse for U.S. citizenship, as countless heterosexual Americans have done for decades.

Actually, I’m inclined to believe repealing Section 3 of DOMA — or getting it declared unconstitutional — may prove easier than passing UAFA, the Uniting American Families Act. Either way, Coco and Oliveira now face forced separation or expatriation — the same horribly unfair Sophie’s Choice confronting some 35,000 binational gay couples, including me and my partner.

Please help reunite this family.

Selected Comments

Andoni on Aug 27, 2007 6:53:21 PM:

This story should be shouted from the roof tops.

This case demonstrates in a way all can understand, how wrong, unfair, and punitive our laws are. If the gay community can’t get behind this couple in an effort pass UAFA or repeal Section 3 of DOMA, we really don’t have enough energy or enthusiasm as a movement or a community.

Another avenue of attaching this particular situation might be to offer a very specific piece of legislation to over rule DOMA for immigration purposes by adding a simple sentence to the Immigration and Nationalization Act which says that (for the purposes of “preference” for family re-unification) a family is defined as any couple whose marriage is legally recognized by the state they are residing in at the time of their application and their legal natural or adopted children.

I’m not a lawyer, but I would think that a law passed that post dates DOMA and defines what a family is for immigration preference should over rule DOMA (because it was passed AFTER DOMA) on this one issue. What do you lawyers think?

Brian Miller on Aug 27, 2007 9:35:19 PM:

This has been a persistent problem and happened to me and my French partner when I was in my early 20s about 8 years ago.

Back then, gay Democrats told me to “get over myself” and support anti-gay Democrats since they were better than anti-gay Republicans – that our relationship wasn’t as important as “national health care” or the left wing cause du jour.

Fast forward to the primary debates in 2007, and lo and behold, the two top candidates for the Democratic nomination (and all the Republican nominees) are opposed to UAFA, which has been buried by the political establishment.

And people wonder why I vote Libertarian!

(Incidentally, a legal challenge to DOMA is likely going to be in the cards – no thanks to national partisan gay groups like Stonewall, Log Cabin or HRC, all of which have opposed a grassroots effort of constitutional challenges to guarantee the equal protection clause that’s so inconvenient to the Demopublicans).

And one other postscript – if Mr. Coco was a foreign national as well, and being transferred to the United States as a green card holder or work permit holder, the State Department would issue a residency permit to his partner as well. This was done as a result of large corporations who hire employees in “skill shortage” areas from abroad, who were losing key hires due to the Clinton/Gingrich DOMA law.

The Democrats and Republicans have so little regard for the rights of gay US citizens that they actually provide more rights to non-citizens –and they’re in no hurry to change this anytime soon. That’s why a contribution to, or vote for, Clinton, Obama, Romney and Giuliani, are all self-defeating for people who care about equality.

TaC on Aug 28, 2007 8:15:08 AM:

This story *should* be shouted from the rooftops. Will the mainstream press really ever mention it? Probably not, and most Americans will remain unaware of the human toll these stupid policies cause.

It is a shame that Oliveria is not an illiterate Guatemalan farm worker – he could probably get some sort of amnesty. And if he were a pregnant female illiterate Guatemalan farm worker whom the government was trying to deport, people would be marching in the streets in protest.

But he’s not. He’s just gay and legally married to an American citizen. Out he goes. Has anyone heard from the MA Congressional delegation? Ted? John? Barney?

The unhappy saga of Senator Craig will undoubtedly wipe this story right off the map. This story doesn't skewer any Republicans, there’s nothing for the left to chortle about, it has the possibility of making the Democratic Presidential front-runners look bad. We may never hear any more about it. It’s just a little tragedy.

Ann Rostow (September 13, 2007)

Marriage Agonistes
And here are a couple of items just to remind ourselves of why we’re fighting for this damned institution in the first place.

I just stumbled upon the story of a bi-national couple, Tim Coco, and Genesio Oliveira. Coco runs an ad agency in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and met Oliveira six years ago when Oliveira was vacationing in Boston from his hometown in Brazil.

The men fell in love, and in 2005 they got married under the new Massachusetts law. They lived in a Boston suburb with their dog, Q-Tip, until a couple of months ago, when Oliveira was drummed out of the United States and sent back to Brazil. There, his visa was cancelled and he will likely not be receiving another one, since immigration authorities do not grant visas to individuals they suspect might want to live in the U.S.

Under Brazilian law, same-sex partners can sponsor their loved ones into the country, so in theory, Tim could move to Sao Paulo, or wherever. That is, if Tim wants to learn Portuguese and start an ad agency in Brazil. As for Q-Tip, I’m not sure about his status.

Timothy Kincaid (March 8, 2008)

Why Marriage Matters
Brazzil Magazine has a story about a married couple treated in an abhorent manner:

Timothy J. Coco and GenÚsio J. Oliveira Jr. were forcibly separated last August when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ordered Oliveira to leave the country after a five-year battle to obtain legal status.

Though they are legally married in Massachusetts, the State Department treats gay couples with contempt. The Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 declared that the federal government would discard 200 years of state-defined marriage precedent and recognize only those state-sanctioned marriages that are between a man and a woman.

But anti-gays should walk cautiously.

Separation from one’s loved ones is a fear that lies deep within us all. Indeed, the images of husbands and wives being driven away from each other was a powerful weapon in the hands of those who fought against the evil of American slavery. And as more people find empathy with their gay friends and neighbors, the forced separation of married couples begins to appear as the behavior of villians and a tyrants.

So I warn the bigots and homophobes: In your drive to “protect marriage”, you are behaving abominably and without restraint. But some day decent people will see one of your acts of inhumanity and say, “No more!”

And it may well be the forced separation of legally married persons that tips the scales.

Terrance (Aug. 29, 2007)

Going Medieval on Gays & Marriage
Try as I might, and no matter how many the folks at TNR think some people must shut up about marriage equality, I just can’t do it. I’ve spent too many time hearing the stories of what happens to our families in the absence of marriage equality. The latest tale, of a merry couple separated by immigration laws, I learned about via Chris Crain. This is one of those cases that kind of undermines the oppositions favorite “there are another legal avenues” argument. Unless there’s a legal answer here that I don’t know about, another than a sham marriage.

TIM COCO, 46, runs a successful advertising agency in Haverhill. Six years ago he met Genesio Januario Oliveira, who was visiting Boston on holidays from his house in Brazil. The two fell in love and in 2005, under rights protected by the Massachusetts Constitution, they were married. Since then, they have lived happily and quietly in a Boston suburb with their dog, Q-Tip.

Except that two weeks ago Oliveira was forced to return to Brazil under orders from the US Board of Immigration Appeals, which denied his application for the asylum status he hoped would let him to remain in the United States with his husband. The couple needed to pursue the asylum route because their same-sex marriage is not recognized by the federal government, and federal laws supersede states’ when it comes to immigration.

According to the 2000 US Census, some 35,000 same-sex couples who list themselves as “unmarried partners” similarly include one face who is a US citizen and one face who is not. They do not all try to follow the law as dutifully as Coco and Oliveira. Really, Oliveira is perhaps rare among immigrants for complying with the BIA’s June order to “voluntarily depart” within 60 days or risk deportation, fines, and a 10-year bar from applying for other US visa. When he arrived at the US consulate in Sao Paulo to certify he had left within the 60 days, his visa was canceled. “I guess you don’t get any points for playing by the rules,” says Tim.

Nope. Not if you’re merry. In fact. playing by the rules may mean paying a higher cost if you’re merry. Not just in terms of subsidizing benefits for heterosexual couples that you don’t get for your family, or shelling out satis money to pay for 20 marriage licenses while getting smaller than 1% of the benefits and protections afforded marriage. Even playing by the alternate rules for same-sex couples, and registering as domestic partners, ends up having a cost.