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New York, January 3, 2013 — Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic has won asylum for a gay man who feared for his life in his home country of Honduras because of attacks and persecution based on his sexual orientation.
The grant of asylum, issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on December 31, 2012, highlights the dangers faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals in Honduras. LGBT activists and individuals there suffer at the hands of private citizens and even the police under a regime that follows what one gay activist called “a policy of extermination.”
“Our client suffered horrendous, violent attacks in Honduras because he is gay,” said AJ Garcia ’14, a clinic student who worked on the case. “He has lived his entire life changing his behavior to avoid suspicion about his sexual orientation and surviving physical and emotional brutality from those who suspected he might be gay.”
Three years ago, the clinic’s client and his partner were kidnapped and attacked and his partner was tortured and murdered. Fearing for his life, the clinic’s client fled to the United States from Honduras. Immigration Equality, a national organization focused on immigration rights for LGBT and HIV-positive individuals, referred him to Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic.
Four students from the clinic, Garcia ’14, Michael Ruthenberg-Marshall ’14, Kimber Hargrove ’14, and Matheus Oriolo LL.M. ’13, prepared the client’s case under the supervision of Suzanne B. Goldberg, director of the clinic and the Herbert and Doris Wechsler Clinical Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. The students spent several months conducting interviews, researching conditions in Honduras, drafting affidavits and legal briefs, contacting experts, and preparing the client for his interview with a United States government asylum officer.
“Our client has experienced such extreme persecution in his home country,” said Hargrove. “We hope that now he will be able to live a life without that constant fear hanging over his head.”
Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic addresses cutting-edge issues in sexuality and gender law through litigation, legislation, public policy analysis, and other forms of advocacy. Under Goldberg’s guidance, clinic students have worked on a wide range of projects to serve both individual and organizational clients in cases involving issues of sexuality and gender law.