Lambda Legal Urges Board of Immigration Appeals to Reject Stereotypes

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August 20, 2013

Lambda Legal and the Center for HIV Law & Policy (CHLP) have submitted a friend-of-the-court brief asking the Board of Immigration Appeals to overturn an immigration judge’s ruling denying a Jamaican immigrant’s application for deferral of removal to Jamaica under the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

The brief concerns the case of Anthony, who immigrated to the United States when he was a teenager. “Anthony” is a pseudonym, because the immigrant seeking relief has requested anonymity based on his fear that if he is identified as a gay man, he will be tortured and killed if he is removed to Jamaica.

Anthony explained to the judge that he realized he was gay when he was 25 but—like many other LGB people—continued to struggle for years to come to terms with his sexual orientation, both because of homophobia in his family and community, and reinforced by the antigay religious views of his family. He explained that while navigating his coming out process, he fathered two children. He also presented testimony from both a former and current romantic partner to support his own testimony about his sexual orientation.

In the ruling, the immigration judge concluded that Anthony had not proved he was gay, pointing to the children, Anthony’s earlier relationships with women, and to testimony that Anthony had not told his children or their mothers that he is gay.  However, in the friend-of-the-court brief, Lambda Legal and CHLP cite several studies documenting that for many LGB individuals, acknowledging that one is lesbian, gay or bisexual is often a prolonged process.

Lambda Legal Senior Staff Attorney Thomas W. Ude, Jr. says:

The immigration judge relied on stereotypes that greatly oversimplify the complicated journey may lesbians and gay men travel in coming to terms with their sexual orientation, and in determining to whom they come out.

How do you prove to a judge that you are gay? Denying protection against torture in Jamaica based on stereotyped assumptions about the process of coming out is unjust.

Relationship histories can be complicated for anyone, but this can be particularly true for LGB people from homophobic environments. Given the level of violence LGB people face in Jamaica, a decision that fails to acknowledge this complexity virtually guarantees that LGB immigrants will be sent to very dangerous conditions.

Lambda Legal and CHLP are joined by the following organizations on this brief: the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the National Association of Social Workers, the National Association of Social Workers Connecticut Chapter, the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, the National Black Justice Coalition, the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut.

Read the brief.