In wake of one activist’s murder, another faces deportation back to homophobic Uganda

As mourners in Uganda on Friday laid to rest gay activist David Kato, bludgeoned to death on Wednesday in his home in Kampala, in Britian several members of Parliament were calling on their government to halt the imminent deportation of Brenda Namigadde, a 29-year-old lesbian activist who was supposed to be sent back to Uganda tonight.

Same-gender sexual contact is illegal in Uganda, with those convicted facing sentences of up to 14 years in prison. Some government officials have in the last year been pushing to make the laws regarding homosexuality in Uganda even harsher, including death sentences in some cases.

According to reports by the BBC, Namigadde, who fled Uganda for the United Kingdom in 2002, said she was beaten and victimized in her home country because of her sexual orientation. However, when she applied for asylum, British immigration officials denied her application, saying that “an immigration judge found on the evidence before him that Ms. Namigadde was not homosexual.”

Ugandan MP David Bahati, the main force behind the death-to-gays legislation there, has said that Namigadde must either “repent or reform” or she will be arrested on her return, according to reports in The Guardian.

Although Namigadde’s first appeal asking for an injunction to stop her deportation was denied, her lawyers continue to work to have the deportation stopped.

Among the MPs calling on immigration officials to halt Namigadde’s deportation is Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith where Namigadde lived while in England. Slaughter said, “Whatever the circumstances surrounding Ms Namigadde’s presence in Britain, it is clear that she cannot be deported to Uganda at present. Both the public mood and the official stance towards homosexuals in Uganda are lethal at the moment — we should not be contemplating sending my constituents back to a society where she will be in grave danger of her life.”

—  admin

Pearland police say there’s no reason to believe murdered teen Joshua Wilkerson was gay

Hermilo Moralez

Pearland police say they have no reason to believe 18-year-old murder victim Joshua Wilkerson was gay — despite suspect Hermilo Moralez’s claim that Wilkerson made a sexual advance toward him.

Moralez, 19, is charged with murder in the death of Wilkerson, whose partially burned body was found Thursday in an overgrown field.

According to court records, Moralez told Pearland police the pair fought after Wilkerson “began to come on to him in a sexual manner.” But Lt. Oneismo Lopez, a spokesman for the Pearland Police Department, told Instant Tea on Monday that detectives have found no evidence to support Moralez’s claim.

“There’s no indication that he was anything but straight right now,” Lopez said of Wilkerson, adding that detectives have interviewed Wilkerson’s family, friends and some former girlfriends. “What it comes down to, they talked to a couple of girls that he was intimate with. … They did not get any indication that he was gay at all. He [Moralez] probably made it up to minimize his own responsibility, to try to put it off on Joshua.”

If anything, Lopez said, it’s possible that Moralez made a sexual advance toward Wilkerson, although detectives haven’t been able to confirm this.

“We’re looking at all possibilities, and that’s one of them,” Lopez said, adding that the motive for the murder is still unknown.

Services for Wilkerson were held this morning in Houston.

Moralez remains in the Brazoria County jail, charged with murder, failure to identify himself by giving false information to an officer, attempting to take a weapon from an officer and tampering with evidence.

Federal immigration officials have also placed a hold on Moralez, a native of Belize who came to the U.S. 11 years ago. Lopez said no further information was available about Moralez’s immigration status.

“I know that usually when they put a hold on someone like that, that means the person is here illegally,” Lopez said. “We’re not exactly sure what his status is.”

—  John Wright

Gay couple separated by immigration law as one fights cancer; congressman won’t help

Aurelio Tolentino, left, and his partner, Roi Whaley

Roi Whaley and Aurelio Tolentino, both HIV-positive, met in 2004 through a support group for people living with AIDS. Roi is a native of Gulfport, Miss., and Tolentino, a registered nurse, had come to the U.S. on a work visa from his home in the Philipines.

Then, during the process of applying for his green card, authorities discovered Tolentino’s HIV-positive status, and immigration officials informed him he would have to leave the country. That was back in 2006, before President Barack Obama rescinded the policy prohibiting HIV-positive people from entering the U.S., either as immigrants or tourists.

Tolentino wasn’t too keen on going back to the Philipines. For one thing, it would mean leaving his partner, Whaley. On top of that, he had already been attacked and beaten for being gay in his home country, and if he were to return, it would likely happen again.

So Tolentino applied for asylum in the U.S. That application was denied because he had been in this country already for more than a year, and U.S. policy says anyone seeking asylum must apply within one year of entering the country.

Left with no other option, Tolention moved to Canada to live with his mother, who already has legal status as a permanent resident. He applied for asylum there and, once again, was denied. Now he may have no other choice than to return to the Philipines where he would possibly face harassment, violence and even death.

To make matters, Whaley was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. He left for Seattle on Friday, Sept. 3, for a visit to his oncologist, after which he planned to fly on to Canada to spend the month of September with Tolentino and his mother. It will likely be the last time the partners see each other, since Tolentino faces deportation to the Phillipines, and Whaley’s deteriorating health rules out the possibility of him visiting Tolentino there.

There is one hope: a plea to the Department of Homeland Security to grant Tolentino a humanitarian parole that would allow him to return to the U.S temporarily to be with his dying partner. But that’s not likely to happen, either, especially without intervention from Whaley’s congressman, Rep. Gene Taylor, a Democrat from Bay St. Louis, Miss.

With the help of Immigration Equality, based in Washington, D.C., Whaley and Tolentino have already asked once for Taylor’s help. An aide in Taylor’s office told Whaley no, the congressman wasn’t going to intervene. And Taylor’s office has failed so far to even return calls from Immigration Equality.

But Steve Ralls, director of communications for Immigration Equality, said Friday that neither the couple nor Immigration Equality is ready to give up yet. They are asking for the public’s help in lobbying Congressman Taylor to intervene and get Homeland Security to grant the humanitarian parole that will let Whaley spend his final days with the man he loves.

“Were Roi and Aurelio a married heterosexual couple, Roi would be eligible to apply to sponsor Aurelio for residency in the United States. Because they are a gay couple, however, that option is not open to them,” Ralls said in a press release sent out Friday. “Now, with Roi’s health deteriorating and Aurelio facing a move to the Philipines — where it would be nearly impossible for Roi to travel and be with him — the couple face impending separation. They are one of 36,000 such couples, according to an analysis of the 2000 Census data, facing this kind of situation.

“Despite having followed every immigration rule and voluntarily leaving the U.S. when immigration asked him to do so, Aurelio is now being punished under the law for following the law,” Ralls said.

If you want to help Immigration Equality fight for Roi and Aurelio, or if you are yourself part of an international same-sex couple trying to negotiate immigration law, contact the organization at 202-347-7007.

If you want to contact Congressman Taylor and encourage him to intervene on behalf of this couple, go to his website here to find addresses and phone numbers for his office in Washington, D.C., and all five of his offices in his district.

—  admin