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LGBT organizations rally at Newark courthouse to save same-sex marriage

All photos and interviews are by Lanette Espy
In a rally of supporters in favor of LGBT couples, organizations from across the country protested in front of the Federal Building in Newark, NJ, on May 6 to support a gay, bi-national couple who faced a deportation hearing.

"President Obama Please Stop Deporting LGBT Spouses" and "Separate Church & State Stop the Hate!" were some of the messages displayed on posters at the rally.  

The protest took place in support of Josh Vandiver of Colorado and Henry Velandia of Venezuela, a same-sex couple who is fighting to stay together.

Under the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government does not recognize this couple's marriage, which in turn may have Velandia deported.

Velandia said him and his husband are living in a nightmare and he believes the Defense of Marriage Act is not constitutional.

"We just want to stay together and get our marriage recognized," Velandia said. "We love each other like any other couple, we're humans."

Velandia believes he should be allowed to remain in the United States as the spouse of a U.S. citizen. Many supporters made clear that the law should recognize all lawful marriages.

Josh Vandiver (left) and Henry Velandia (right)
One fellow supporter added, "This is not slavery but in the slave holding south, families are broken up all the time and we would like to think America is beyond that and better than that."

The supporter continued to say, for the government to be in a position to break up a family like this is a crime and that we [this country] need federal, equal marriage rights.

Melissa Klecknor, the State Lead for Get EQUAL, said Velandia and Vandiver were hoping to show a presence in front of the Federal Building so that Obama, the immigration courts and the department of Homeland Security know how serious this issue is.

When Klecknor was asked about her feelings on Velandia's possible deportation, she answered, "As a married woman, I was disgusted and heartbroken."

Melissa Klecknor (far right)
"The fact that anyone can be deported on the basis of their sexual orientation because their marriage is not seen as valid in the eyes of our government, says something is very wrong with our government," Klecknor continued. 

She, like many others, believe Velandia deserves to be in this country as well as the thousands of other bi-national, LGBT men and women who are facing deportation.

Klecknor said as long as the Defense of Marriage Act is in place this will continue to occur and says they [LGBT organizations and supporters] will be out there fighting every step of the way.

"This is obviously my personal opinion, but I think a lot of it has a lot to do with religion in this country, despite evidence or the belief that there's separation between church and state, there really isn't," Klecknor said.

She continued, "As long as religion fundamentalist have the ear of our government it's going to be hard for social issues such as this to push forward."

Velandia said a rally like this is inspiration to keep standing for what he believes is right.

Josh Vandiver and Henry Velandia's wedding photo is displayed on a poster
After the rally, Velandia was scheduled to appear in court to decide on his deportation.

It was then ruled that Velandia will have to appear in court again in December, but for now, he can stay in the country and be with his husband.

LGBT organizations hope the law changes by then.