A MARRIED Haverhill couple who were kept apart by the so-called Defense of Marriage Act got a reprieve this week, thanks to US Senator John Kerry, but the underlying injustice still needs to be remedied. On Wednesday, Genesio Oliveira returned to Massachusetts after being separated from his husband, Tim Coco, for nearly three years. Keeping families together is a high priority in US immigration rules. But the 1996 marriage law bans any federal acknowledgement of same-sex couples, so Oliveira had to return to his native Brazil.
Fortunately for Oliveira and Coco, Kerry intervened for them, as did Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Oliveira received a one-year humanitarian parole — a rare exemption that allows otherwise ineligible people into the country. Maybe some route to permanent residency will now open up. But if not, what are Oliveira and Coco supposed to do when the year is over?
There is some hope. Two important lawsuits — one by Attorney General Martha Coakley and the other by the group Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders — are challenging provisions of the federal law that discriminate against couples who were legally married in Massachusetts. Better yet, Congress could just repeal a law that, far from defending anybody’s marriage, merely hassles people who want to live together happily.