More than 1,500 New Yorkers gathered today in Manhattan to mourn the death of a 32 year-old gay man, who was shot down on Friday just blocks away from the historic Stonewall Inn in an apparent act of anti-gay bias.
UPDATE: Last Minute Stay of Deportation Keeps Couple Together on Valentine's Day
Last Wednesday on our blog, we brought you the heartbreaking story of Brian Andersen and Anton Tanumihardja, a loving and committed Philadelphia couple. Today we are happy to report there is newfound hope in this ongoing love story.
After learning last week that Anton was to be separated from Brian and deported to his native Indonesia on Valentine's Day, GLAAD reached out to local and national media, urging them to shine a spotlight on this unthinkable and discriminatory event - made possible by the federal so-called "Defense of Marriage Act." At the same time, we provided media training to Brian and Anton so they would be prepared to speak to Americans about their love and commitment, as well as the emotional and possible physical harm that would be caused by tearing apart the couple and deporting Anton to Indonesia, where there is mounting persecution of gay men.
In the 11th hour - literally, just three hours before Anton was to board a plane bound for Indonesia, the couple's attorney received a faxed letter from the Dept. of Homeland Security, stating that a stay of deportation had been issued in Anton's case. (The last-minute notice came after months of pleas to lawmakers to issue the stay at least long enough for the Board of Immigration Appeals to decide if Anton's case would be reopened on the grounds that deportation would pose a serious threat to Anton's safety given the increasingly harsh climate of persecution that exists for gay men in Indonesia.)
"For now, we feel like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders," Brian told GLAAD on Tuesday. "We can breathe a little easier. We have this time together, to work on our relationship and this pending motion that will hopefully keep Anton here permanently."
After an "emotionally draining two weeks," Brian shared that the couple celebrated Valentine's Day at a Thai restaurant not far from his home.
Brian and Anton are overwhelmed with gratitude for the support that's been extended to them. They've heard from people all over the country. Friends, family, their attorney and so many others have gone "above and beyond," according to the couple.
Brian confesses that Monday's victory feels bittersweet.
"While it's great that he [Anton] gets to stay for now, this is not a permanent solution," Brian said.
"There can be a light at the end of the tunnel..." Brian offered to other couples who find themselves in similar situations.
Though this story is far from over, GLAAD is elated to learn that Brian and Anton were not separated on Valentine's Day. We look forward to the day when no family is separated because of discriminatory laws that do not recognize the relationships of all loving and committed couples. Until then, we will continue to work with the media to lift up the stories of Brian and Anton and others like them. As always, the goal here is to promote understanding that leads to acceptance and equality for LGBT people.
To see a very moving video featuring Brian & Anton, produced by CNN's Sarah Hoye, please click on the image below:
CNN: Gay man seeking asylum: I can't return to Indonesia