Brian Anderen and Anton Tanumihardja are a same-sex couple living in Philadelphia. After more than year of legal twist and turns, thinking they had almost succeeded in securing a stay for Tanumihardja, who comes from Indonesia – everything changed. And now, according to a recent statement from the couple’s lawyer, Tanumihardja may be sent back to his homeland after living in Philadelphia for almost a decade.
As we told you before on G Philly, not only is Tanumihardja gay, but he’s Christian and Chinese – a recipe for persecution, he says, if he returns to his native Indonesia. Tanumihardja was recently denied a request to halt deportation this month. And now both Tanumihardja and his partner are being forced to seek a solution before the January 12 deadline when Tanumihardja is expected to return to his homeland or risk stiff legal penalties.
Initially, the couple received good news after several petitions were made by local leaders – including Congressman Bob Brady – to encourage the U.S. government to allow Tanumihardja to stay in this country as a political refugee. And the future looked even brighter as the Department of Homeland Security announced just this summer that it would begin evaluating a person’s “family ties” when considering deportation cases, even for those who may be in same-sex relationships. To make sure their own tie was binding, the couple even married in Washington D.C. this summer.
But DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) is preventing the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages like this one, even though it could mean the difference between this couple staying together and Tanumihardja staying in the U.S. legally – or risk being deported.
And that simply doesn’t make sense.
Senior officials in the Obama administration have admitted that individuals like Tanumihardja should not be considered a priority for deportation and that cases like his must be set aside for compelling humanitarian reasons. Not only is Tanumihardja legally married to a U.S. citizen, but he has strong family ties here now. If these two were a straight couple, Andersen could simply sponsor Tanumihardja to stay here legally. And he would likely be accepted since he’s a hard-working and respected member of the community and has been for almost a decade. Sadly, Tanumihardja has no ties to Indonesia, a country he fled because of persecution due to his identity.
That’s why Equality PA supports the passage of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) also known as HR 1024 and S 424, and has called upon the U.S. Congress to take action this week. The LGBT group has also asked that the Obama administration not deport Tanumihardja on grounds of political asylum, saying he could be imprisoned or worse for being gay, Christian and Chinese in his homeland.
Under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents may sponsor their spouses (and other immediate family members) for immigration purposes, but same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and permanent residents are not considered “spouses” and their partners cannot sponsor them for family-based immigration, says Equality PA.
That means thousands of LGBT bi-national couples are kept apart, torn apart, or forced to stay together illegally, with one partner in constant fear of deportation. The Uniting American Families Act could help to remedy this injustice.
For Tanumihardja, who’s been living in Philadelphia since 2002, seeking asylum has proven an uphill battle. So much so that GLAAD’s also gotten involved, asking people to take action on behalf of the Philly couple.
“Brian means everything to me,” Anton tells GLAAD. “He is by my side in every single situation. I can never be separated from him. I love him so much. I will never find anyone else like him.”
He adds: “If I could speak with President Obama, I would tell him that I belong in this country because I have a family here -my husband, Brian, and my mother-in-law, Debbie. I love this country very much. I just don’t want it to separate me forever from the people I love most.”
You can sign a petition for Andersen and Tanumihardja and other same-sex couple by clicking here.