A Final Request
September 08 2010 1:50 PM ET
Spend a few minutes on the phone with Roi Whaley and Aurelio Tolentino, and you assume they’ve been together a long time, if only because they’ve perfected a hallmark of many married couples: finishing each other’s sentences and correcting one another’s anecdotes. The back-and-forth is immediately endearing.
The couple met nearly six years ago in an HIV support chat room. Whaley approached Tolentino — or was it the other way around? Tolentino says it was. A native of the Philippines who was living in the United States on an employer-sponsored visa, Tolentino worked as a registered nurse in a Long Beach, Calif., hospital. He was also trapped in a physically abusive relationship with a man with whom he shared a small, one-bedroom apartment. After their first online meeting, Tolentino would call Whaley from a local park when he needed someone to talk to.
“I knew there was something special about him, and I knew that I had to help him,” says Whaley, a 46-year-old casino supervisor who lives in Gulfport, Miss. “It didn’t matter if he fell in love with me. I just wanted to let him know that I would always be there for him ... ”
“And he gave me the courage to get out of that relationship and never look back,” Tolentino, 39, adds without missing a beat. “There was something about his voice that just told me I could trust him.”
Binational gay couples in the United States are no strangers to hardship, but the story of Roi and Aurelio is particularly harrowing, recently catching the attention of Immigration Equality. The national LGBT group is pushing for a last-ditch request for the federal government to reunite the couple, who have been forced to live apart for three years because federal law does not permit gays and lesbians the chance to sponsor their noncitizen partners for residency.
Legislative reform for an estimated 36,000 such couples and their families remains uncertain; it’s unclear whether Congress will even take up the issue before the current session adjourns at year end. Meanwhile, Immigration Equality continues to lobby for a bill, known as the Uniting American Families Act, to be included in any comprehensive immigration reform legislation or to be passed as a stand-alone measure.
Sign Up For Email Updates
- Entertainment News Seen at TrevorLIVE: Jane Lynch, Billy Porter, Cason Crane, Cindy McCain 1 hour 30 min ago
- Women Where the Girls Are in West Hollywood 8:09 PM
- The Wedding Channel EXCLUSIVE: Kim Stolz & Lexi Ritsch Wedding Photos 7:46 PM
- The Wedding Channel PHOTOS: A Mass Wedding First in Maryland 6:24 PM
- Entertainment News How To Take Down An Anti-Gay 'Victim' 6:06 PM
- Arts & Entertainment PHOTOS: Perez Hilton Vs. Inflatable Alligator 6:00 PM
- Entertainment News One Direction: Caught Twerking—and in Calvins 5:44 PM