By Daniel Reynolds
Originally published on Advocate.com July 25 2013 4:53 PM ET
A federal appeals court granted a gay immigrant reprieve from deportation on Wednesday, on the basis that his sexual orientation and HIV status would expose him to persecution in the Philippines, according to Courthouse News Service.
The defendant, Dennis Vitug, 37, presented evidence that he had been raped and beaten numerous times in his native country for his effeminate behavior. In addition, Vitus told the Pasadena court that Filipino authorities harassed and ignored him in the past, arguing that police would not protect him from future harm if he should return.
The Department of Homeland Security had attempted to deport Vitug, pointing to his expired tourist visa and a crime of drug possession, for which he recently served eight months in prison. Vitug, who is HIV-positive, claimed asylum and contended that he had been taking methamphetamines to combat depression related to his status.
"The evidence compels the conclusion that Vitug will more likely than not be persecuted if he is removed to the Philippines," wrote Judge Harry Pregerson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, reversing a prior decision by the Bureau of Immigration Appeals.
"Vitug showed that he was beaten multiple times over a period of years," the judge added. "Vitug demonstrated that two of these beatings were severe. Vitug also demonstrated that he is gay and perceived to be effeminate and that his attackers called him names and beat him because he was gay. While Vitug did not report these attacks, he credibly testified that it is well known in the Philippines that police harass gay men and turn a blind eye to hate crimes committed against gay men. Vitug bolstered this testimony with documentary evidence of a police raid on a gay theater during which police beat and robbed the patrons."