Baltimore, MD – July 4, 2017 – On this Fourth of July, FreeState Justice celebrates freedom. Alex and Marvin (pictured above) were recently granted asylum by the Department of Homeland Security. Alex and Marvin, immigrated to the United States from Honduras and Guatemala in 2012 and 2009, respectively, and were married in 2014 in Baltimore City. Both men fled separately from their hometowns, fearing the homophobic violence prevalent in their communities enabled by the countries’ lack of protection for LGBTQ+ people from violence and discrimination.* With this victory, Alex and Marvin can now live freely and openly as gay men with dignity and without shame or fear.
Alex and Marvin were both delighted to spend the rest of their lives together, but they knew that living openly as gay men in the United States would have made returning to their birth countries very dangerous.
Growing up in Honduras and Guatemala, Alex and Marvin lived in daily fear of hate-motivated beatings, harassment, and even murder. People killed gay men with impunity in each of their hometowns, including Alex’s first cousin.
Alex and Marvin risked their lives to flee from their home countries and seek refuge in the United States. Although Alex almost died in the Arizona desert, he felt relief having arrived in the U.S., for he was “finally able to feel safe that [he] was gay.”
Even years later, married and living in Baltimore, Alex and Marvin worried about living openly in their marriage, given the possibility of being forced to return to their home countries. They knew that if the United States granted either of them asylum, they would both be safe from that possibility.
With the assistance of FreeState Justice’s pro bono attorney Jessie Weber and paralegal Angela Lima, of Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP, the couple applied for asylum. They explained to the asylum officer that if they returned to Honduras or Guatemala as a married couple, they would face more abuse and persecution. Simple things like holding hands or living together made them fear for their lives.
A few weeks ago, Alex was granted asylum. FreeState is thrilled for this victory for Alex and Marvin, and for the broader LBGTQ+ and immigrant communities in Maryland.
* Since Alex fled from Honduras, laws have changed. In 2013, sexual orientation and gender identity gained apparent protection under the national anti-discrimination law, but the law has had a limited effect on reported numbers of violence against LGBTQ+ individuals.