Mexican Gay Man Seeking Asylum Appeals to the Ninth Circuit
(LOS ANGELES, December 7, 1999) — A Mexican citizen beaten and sexually assaulted by law enforcement officials because he is an effeminate gay man should be granted asylum in the United States, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said Tuesday, on the eve of a hearing in his case.
On Wednesday, December 8, the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit will review Hernandez-Montiel v. INS, involving 22-year old Geovanni Hernandez-Montiel, whose asylum claim was rejected by an immigration board that believed the persecution he faced was not due to his sexual orientation.
Robert S. Gerber, a partner with the San Diego firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton L.L.P., who represents Hernandez-Montiel, and Lambda Supervising Attorney Jon W. Davidson will be available to speak with reporters after the hearing outside the federal courthouse in Pasadena.
Davidson co-authored an amicus brief supporting the asylum claim jointly submitted by Lambda, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
In addition to being thrown out of school and forced to attend a program to change his sexual orientation, Hernandez-Montiel was repeatedly detained, beaten, harassed, and twice sexually assaulted by law enforcement officials. He finally fled Mexico in 1993 at age 16.
The state department has identified Mexico as one of the countries where gay men and lesbians are very likely to be victims of violence. Effeminate gay men in particular are singled out for ostracization and anti-gay abuse in Mexico. While the U.S. government has granted asylum on the basis of sexual orientation since 1990, the Board of Immigration Appeals denied asylum for Hernandez-Montiel. It claimed he was abused not because he is gay but because he is effeminate, saying he could avoid persecution by changing his appearance.
Davidson said, “When you are assaulted by government agents because of your membership in a particular social group, you are entitled to asylum. It is offensive for the government to distinguish between different parts of Hernandez-Montiel’s gay identity to justify denying him asylum.”
The friend-of-the-court brief argues that Hernandez-Montiel was persecuted because he is gay, and discusses the realities of Mexican culture, where effeminacy serves as a sign of gay identity and includes not just clothing, but also voice, mannerisms, relationships and self-perception, which the government can’t require one to change. In the U.S., asylum is routinely granted on the basis of religious and political beliefs, which are mutable; and under current immigration policy, programs that forcibly seek to change one’s way of being are themselves considered a form of persecution.
WHO: Attorney Robert S. Gerber, who represents Hernandez-Montiel, and Lambda Supervising Attorney Jon W. Davidson will speak with reporters following the argument WHERE: Federal Court House, Court Room 2, 125 S. Grand Ave., Pasadena WHEN: Wednesday, December 8, hearing begins 9:00 a.m.
WHO: Attorney Robert S. Gerber, who represents Hernandez-Montiel, and Lambda Supervising Attorney Jon W. Davidson will speak with reporters following the argument
WHERE: Federal Court House, Court Room 2, 125 S. Grand Ave., Pasadena
WHEN: Wednesday, December 8, hearing begins 9:00 a.m.
Contact: Jon W. Davidson 323-937-2728 x 228; Peg Byron 212-809-8585 x 230, 888-987-1984 (pager)