Gay Mexican given asylum because of 'sexual persecution'

Click to follow
The Independent US

A gay Mexican man who claims he was targeted for abuse in his home country because of his sexual orientation has been granted asylum in the United States following a landmark appeals court ruling in San Francisco.

A gay Mexican man who claims he was targeted for abuse in his home country because of his sexual orientation has been granted asylum in the United States following a landmark appeals court ruling in San Francisco.

The decision, handed down on Thursday evening at the climax of a five-year asylum battle by Geovanni Hernandez-Montiel, marks the first time that anti-gay discrimination has been acknowledged by US courts as a form of political persecution.

Mr Hernandez claimed he was singled out for mistreatment because he was not only gay but also liked to dress up in women's clothes and wear make-up. He alleged that he had twice been abducted and raped by Mexican police, among many other abuses.

In an earlier hearing, an immigration judge had turned down his asylum request, arguing that his effeminate appearance was something he could change if he so chose. The Board of Immigration Appeals took a similar line.

But the San Francisco court of appeals dissented strongly. "His female sexual identity is immutable because it is inherent in his identity," Judge Wallace Tashima wrote in his ruling. "He should not be required to change it."

Two more conservative judges supported the ruling, although one of them expressed some reservations. What appeared to sway them was testimony from a San Diego university professor who said that gay men displaying female characteristics can be singled out for special persecution in Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Mr Hernandez first entered the US in 1993, when he was 15. He was quickly arrested and deported, and returned to his older sister who enrolled him in a counselling programme to try to alter his sexual behaviour. When she saw no sign of progress, however, she threw him out of her house. He then returned to the US and initiated his asylum request.

Comments