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Gay California couple fights to stay together against deportation

A gay couple in San Francisco is challenging the federal marriage law that disregards same-sex unions in a bid to stay together in the U.S.
Brian Willingham (Left) and Alfonso Garcia (Right)

San Francisco’s federal immigration court put a deportation case on hold today (23 March) for a gay undocumented immigrant married to a U.S. citizen, according to the couple's attorney.

Alfonso Garcia, a 35-year-old Mexican native who moved to the United States with his parents in his mid-teens, and his 37-year-old husband Brian Willingham are petitioning the federal immigration service for legal residency based on their marriage, the CNN cited attorney Lavi Soloway as saying.

The judge decided to suspend Garcia’s deportation proceeding while his legal residency is being is being processed, Soloway said.

Garcia and Willingham first met in a Halloween party in 2001, married in New York last year and are registered domestic partners in the Bay area of San Francisco.

They are seeking to challenge on constitutional grounds the federal Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Garcia, whose parents are legal residents applying for citizenship, were found to have an undocumented status during a routine traffic stop July last year that led to a background check.

He was then arrested and moved to three different jails, including one in the Arizona dessert, for more than three weeks.

While Willingham secured Garcia’s release, the latter was faced with deportation procedures that could bar him from the U.S. for a decade.

The couple has joined the Stop the Deportations campaign – which helps binational same-sex couples - calling for signatures and writing blog posts in an attempt to get Garcia a green card.

In a post, Willingham expressed his anger at being given ‘zero, zilch, nada, null accesses to the federal rights that all married couples have’.

Referring to the discrimination that African Americans faced in the past, he wrote, ‘There are no separate federal rights for married gay couples. There are no rights at all.

‘This is not a front of the bus, back of the bus issue. This is the federal government telling us to get the hell off of the bus... I can tell you that DOMA is more like “Destroy Our Marriage Aggressively”.’

The couple is hoping the federal appeals court can make a decision regarding DOMA before Garcia’s next immigration court hearing on 27 Oct, Soloway said.

Earlier this month, David Gonzalez, a gay Costa Rican immigrant, was spared from deportation by a Texas immigration judge based in large part on his same-sex marriage to a U.S. citizen.

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