Gay Winston-Salem couple watches US Supreme Court
WINSTON-SALEM (AP) — A Winston-Salem couple is watching the U.S. Supreme Court to see if one of them can get the permanent resident card he needs to legally stay in the United States.
Manny Llamas and Charles Banks III got married in Vermont, where gay marriage is legal. But that marriage isn't recognized under federal law, so when Llamas, who is a Guatemalan citizen, was arrested last year, he ran the risk of being deported, even though he was married to an American citizen, the Winston-Salem Journal (http://bit.ly/QVOeA3) reported.
Even though a driving while intoxicated charge was eventually dropped against Llamas, he still spent six weeks in jail, facing deportation. Banks gathered pictures and letters from friends showing the couple had been together for nine years, and an immigration judge closed the case against Llamas because of several gay marriage appeals coming before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Several lower federal courts have struck down as unconstitutional a provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that denies federal benefits, including green cards for people who marry U.S. citizens, among many others, to legally married same-sex couples.
Llamas came to the United States on a travel visa. But it expired. While he waits for a possible green card, he does have a document from Homeland Security that says the federal government will not remove him from this country while gay marriage laws are debated.
"Why can the straight couple apply for the green card and a gay couple can't? I don't see why," Llamas said. "This is discrimination against same-sex couples."
The couple estimates they spend at least $9,000 getting Llamas out of jail and keeping him in the country. But Banks said it was worth it.
"My man is in jail. I'm tore up, and I want to get him out," Banks said.
People against gay marriage said laws keeping benefits from gay couples are fair because they are meant to protect families and children.
"As a result of the benefits of having a nuclear family, the government has conferred benefits upon them to make families with children easier to survive intact," said Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, based in Raleigh.