In America everybody is of the opinion that he has no social superiors, since all men are equal, but he does not admit that he has no social inferiors, for, from the time of Jefferson onward, the doctrine that all men are equal applies only upwards, not downwards.

Bertrand Russell

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,”
Boston Globe, Aug. 27, 2007

Media inquiries should be directed to Erin Hoefler, 978-374-1900, Ext. 114

Tauro ruling on DOMA should stand

July 14, 2010

In 1996, I voted against DOMA because I believed—and still believe—that it was unconstitutional and unconscionable for Congress to actively legislate against gay Americans. I stood on the floor of the Senate to implore my colleagues to reject this bill. From the Senate floor, I argued that this legislation was wrong, “because not only is it meant to divide Americans, but it is fundamentally unconstitutional, regardless of your views. DOMA is unconstitutional. There is no single Member of the U.S. Senate who believes that it is within the Senate's power to strip away the word or spirit of a constitutional clause by simple statute.”

I thought back on this last week when a United States District Court declared DOMA’s restrictions unconstitutional. Judge Tauro ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act violates Fifth Amendment protections because " irrational prejudice plainly never constitutes a legitimate government interest.."

We’re not just talking about a violation of the Constitution – DOMA violates our very core principles of civil rights and equal justice under the law.

There are 1,138 provisions in law that use marriage to determine rights and federal benefits. These include Social Security, joint parenting and adoption rights, Medicaid, tax benefits, inheritance rights, next-of-kin rights in emergency situations and with medical decisions, immigration rights, survivor benefits and many more. These thousand injustices have taken an immeasurable toll on loving, committed couples who are routinely forbidden from making hospital visits, or adopting children, or receiving survivor benefits.

And as I’ve seen firsthand, these spouses can even be kept from living together in the same country. For the last two years I have been working with Tim Coco and Junior Oliveira, a married couple from Haverhill, Massachusetts. They married in Massachusetts but Junior is a Brazilian citizen whose legitimate asylum claim was denied in immigration court based on an erroneous and discriminatory ruling. He was forced to return to Brazil, which has the highest hate crime rate against homosexuals in the world. For three years this legally married couple lived half a hemisphere apart because DOMA kept their marriage from being recognized in immigration matters. Their marriage was even used against them. Junior was denied a travel visa to visit his husband because the government argued he didn’t have a compelling interest to return to Brazil and leave Tim. Just last month they were finally reunited through a Humanitarian Parole Visa for Junior based on the persecution he suffered. But this is only a temporary solution – and countless other couples have not been so lucky.

[Full Text from The Hill]

Gay couple get a boost in winning bid to reunite; Kerry helps Brazilian return to Haverhill

Boston_Globe_PhotoTim Coco (left) with Genesio Oliveira and their dog, Q-tip, at home in Haverhill yesterday. Oliveira can now try again for legal residency. Tim Coco (left) with Genesio Oliveira and their dog, Q-tip, at home in Haverhill yesterday. Oliveira can now try again for legal residency. (David Kamerman for The Boston Globe)

By Maria Sacchetti
Globe Staff / June 4, 2010

Tim Coco and Genesio Oliveira married in 2005, among the throngs who wed after same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. But for nearly three years, they lived apart — Coco in Haverhill and Oliveira in his native Brazil — because federal law does not recognize their union.

On Wednesday, Oliveira returned to Massachusetts for an emotional reunion after federal immigration officials took the rare step of granting him permission to stay for one year on humanitarian grounds, clearing the way for him to try again for legal residency. His return followed personal appeals by Senator John F. Kerry, US Attorney General Eric Holder, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on their behalf.
[Full Text from Boston Globe]

No Time to Wait for Justice

March 24, 2009

Justice may be blind, but it sure ain't always swift.

That's why I have asked the Obama administration to help me speed up reuniting two of my Massachusetts constituents, Tim Coco and his husband Genesio "Junior" Oliveira, who have been separated through no fault of their own.

The case of Tim and Junior has attracted a lot of public attention - and rightly so. Their dilemma illustrates just how important it is to inject some justice and compassion into our immigration system and how important it is to overturn wrongheaded laws like the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and pass legislation that guarantees gay couples the same legal protections heterosexual couples are afforded. But in the meantime, I'm asking Attorney General Eric Holder to lend a hand to get Junior back home with Tim in Massachusetts as quickly as possible.

Tim and Junior were married in Massachusetts in March 2005. Two years later, Junior was forced to return to his native Brazil because of his expired immigration status. Immigration laws allow spouses of American citizens to obtain legal permanent residency. But even though Tim and Junior were legally married under Massachusetts law, federal law does not recognize their marriage.

But there are even more immediate humanitarian issues looming in Junior's case. He was forced back to Brazil under orders from the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals, which had denied his application for asylum status. Junior had applied for asylum in 2002 based on a brutal rape and attack he suffered at the hands of government officials in Brazil.

It is astounding that Immigration Judge Francis Cramer, who presided at Junior's asylum hearing, found that Junior's testimony was "credible" and his fear of Brazil "genuine" but nonetheless denied the asylum claim and said that Junior "was never physically harmed" by the rape. The Immigration Appeals Board upheld the ruling in 2007, at which point Junior returned to Brazil and has been separated from his spouse ever since.

Some critics (including Emma Ruby-Sachs, right here on the Huffington Post) have rightly suggested that repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which Congress passed in 1996 in an effort to prohibit same sex marriages, would solve Tim and Junior's problem. But Tim and Junior don't have time to wait for that to happen before they can be reunited. That's why I've asked Attorney General Holder to take a closer look at Junior's asylum claim and reunite this loving couple.

I believe Tim and Junior should be reunited based on their legal marriage in the state of Massachusetts. I believe that all citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation, should be assured equal protection under the law.

That's why I am trying to win passage of the United American Families Act so that partners of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents can obtain lawful permanent resident status in the same manner as spouses of citizens. That's why I voted against DOMA. That's why I am supporting the suit filed by several couples in Massachusetts to overturn parts of DOMA.

But when you cut to the chase, I don't believe Tim and Junior, or any other couple in a similar situation, should have to wait for Congress to come around to the truth that laws like DOMA are discriminatory and wrong.

No couple should have to wait. And no United States Senator should take off the table the immediate steps a compassionate government can take to reunite two law-abiding, loving people today - not tomorrow.

Kerry Requests Asylum in Case of Gay Man

Published: March 21, 2009

BOSTON (AP) — Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, has asked the Obama administration to grant asylum to a gay man who married an American citizen in Massachusetts and was later forced to return to Brazil.

The man, Genesio Oliveira, has been separated from his husband, Tim Coco, since August 2007, when he left the country after his request for asylum and an appeal were denied.

Mr. Oliveira asked for asylum in 2002, saying he was raped and attacked by a physician as a teenager in Brazil and feared persecution because of his sexuality. The Associated Press does not typically name rape victims, but Mr. Oliveira has spoken openly about his case.

In a letter sent Thursday to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., Mr. Kerry said that Immigration Judge Francis L. Cramer had found Mr. Oliveira’s testimony to be credible and his fear of living in Brazil genuine. However, the judge denied the asylum claim, saying he “was never physically harmed” by the rape, the letter said. Mr. Kerry called the ruling “outrageous.”

In Brazil, judges have granted foreign partners in same-sex relationships the right to residence and have authorized civil unions that bestow many benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. But many segments of society remain openly hostile to gay men and lesbians.

The Department of Justice said Mr. Holder would review the letter and respond to Mr. Kerry, but officials would not comment.

In an interview Friday, Mr. Kerry said: “Nobody’s asking to overturn or change the federal law. This is really a humanitarian situation that deserves an appropriate focus.”

Mr. Kerry has co-sponsored a bill that would allow gay men and lesbians from other countries to become legal residents based on their permanent relationships with American citizens.

Immigrants can apply for residency if they marry American citizens, but the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages under the Defense of Marriage Act, and Mr. Oliveira’s request to remain in the United States based on his relationship with Mr. Coco was denied last month.

Mr. Oliveira said he and Mr. Coco filed an appeal of that decision on Friday.

The couple met in 2002 and married in 2005.

Seeking a home away from homophobia
Gays’ asylum cases fuel law field’s growth

Boston Globe, October 14, 2008

Fond memories of a dirty kitchen
Tim Coco of Haverhill, whose husband was denied asylum to stay in the United States, remembers their time living together.

In her sister’s spacious home in Chelsea, Delmy Berganza sat at the kitchen table one recent day and talked openly about life as a lesbian. In her native El Salvador, she was too terrified to utter the word.

In a small flat in Brazil, Genesio Oliveira covered his face with his hands in despair. He lives blocks from a man he said raped him years ago, and he lives in fear in a country where dozens of gay men were killed last year.

“Really I am afraid to even go out,” he said, speaking into a Web camera.“It’s just terrifying. I’d rather stay in my room.”

Both had asked the US government for asylum, saying they feared persecution in their homelands because of their sexual orientation. Berganza’s approval letter arrived in August. That same month, Oliveira’s American husband held a candlelight vigil in Haverhill to mark the year anniversary since Oliveira returned to Brazil . His asylum bid was rejected.
[Full Text from Boston Globe]

Love in exile: One year later, Brazilian spouse still blocked from returning

Bay Windows, August 13, 2008

On a cool summer evening on a quiet residential street in Haverhill about 35 friends, neighbors and family members gathered for a candlelight vigil to mark the one-year anniversary of the forced separation of Tim Coco and Genesio Oliveira, Jr. The couple was legally married in 2005, but Oliveira, a Brazilian citizen, was forced to return to his native country last August after his request for asylum in the United States was denied.

Coco held the vigil at the couple’s Haverhill home, now occupied by Coco and the couple’s dog, Q-Tip, to raise awareness about the unjust treatment he and Oliveira have received as a result of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). While immigration law allows spouses of American citizens to obtain legal permanent residency, under DOMA Coco and Oliveira are not considered spouses. The couple is considering filing a legal challenge to overturn DOMA in federal court, but Coco told the crowd at the vigil that he and Oliveira have become activists by necessity, not by choice. He said if the federal government was willing to allow Oliveira to return they would happily resume their normal lives and abandon any efforts to take legal action.

"Junior is a victim of a government-sponsored hate crime. The United States government knows we’re a family, they know we’re legally married. ... We’re willing to go away quietly, just let us get back together," said Coco, who owns a Haverhill-based advertising agency.
[Full Text from Bay Windows]

'I just want Junior to be able to come home'

Haverhill Gazette, August 13, 2008

Family and friends gathered at the home of Tim Coco and Genesio "Junior" Oliveira Jr. on Tuesday night for a candlelight vigil marking the one-year anniversary of the couple's involuntary separation.

Candles, one for each day they have been apart, glowed outside their home on Woodrow Avenue.
"Junior came here in 2002 on a tourist visa and, as they say, the rest is history," Coco told the gathering.

The couple met in Boston six years ago when Oliveira was visiting from Brazil. A long-distance romance began, and Oliveira returned to the United States. They were married in 2005, after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violated the state constitution.

But their marriage is not recognized by the federal government for immigration purposes, Coco said, leading the couple on a yearslong journey to get permission for Oliveira to immigrate here legally.
[Full Text from Haverhill Gazette]

Reunite this Family

Boston Globe, August 27, 2007

TIM COCO, 46, runs a successful advertising agency in Haverhill. Six years ago he met Genesio Januario Oliveira, who was visiting Boston on vacation from his home 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 allow him to stay 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 person who is a US citizen and one person who is not. They do not all try to follow the law as dutifully as Coco and Oliveira. Indeed, Oliveira is probably 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 another 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.

Because Congress passed – and former President Clinton signed – the mean-spirited Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, no federal rights extend to the roughly 9,000 married same-sex couples in Massachusetts. There are more than 1,000 different benefits – from filing joint income taxes to receiving Social Security benefits – that are denied to same-sex couples everywhere in the country, whether they live in a state that recognizes their marriage or civil union status or not. The ability of a US citizen to sponsor a husband or wife for immigration to the United States, called a form I-130, is just one of them.
[Full Text from the Boston Globe]

Gay Haverhill Man Seeks Return of Spouse from Brazil

Eagle-Tribune, March 12, 2008

HAVERHILL — Six years ago, Tim Coco had just left his Boston office and, with time to kill, he ducked into the bar Vapor to relax and have a quick drink.

It was there that he met a Brazilian man — a medical student in Bolivia — who came to New England on vacation. The two immediately hit it off and started dating.

And even when Genesio Oliveira Jr. left the country, he and Coco stayed in touch, talking on the phone and e-mailing constantly. But be apart they couldn’t. By April 2002, Oliveira moved to Haverhill to be with Coco for good. In 2005, they married — the same year Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriages.

“I wanted him to stay here but I wanted him to be legal,” Coco said.

That dream has turned into the most emotional and costly battle of Coco’s life.
[Full Text from the Eagle-Tribune]

Uniting American Families Act Unlikely To Pass Before November Says Immigration Equality

New England Blade, February 29, 2008

Haverhill resident Tim Coco has seen his husband, Genesio “Junior” Juanario Oliveira, once in the six months since U.S. immigration officials forced Oliveira to return to his native Brazil. Fed up with the lack of progress on any Congressional action that would reunite the couple, this week Coco filed an “I-130 Petition for Alien Relative,” to sponsor his husband for immigration.

If Coco and his husband were a heterosexual couple, there would be no question of his ability to sponsor his spouse. Since they’re gay, when the petition is rejected — as it surely will be, because the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages — the couple intends to purse the matter in the federal courts, all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. If that happens, it will be the first head-on challenge to the law.
[Full Text from New England Blade]