A Venezuelan native who is legally married to an American man had his deportation put on hold by a federal immigration judge Friday.
Henry Valandia will be allowed to stay in the U.S. while he waits to appear in court again on Dec. 16.
Valandia married Josh Vandiver in Connecticut last year where same sex marriages are legal. The couple currently lives in New Jersey.
"I'm in shock," Valandia told The Star-Ledger.
Attorney General Eric Holder surprised advocates Thursday by vacating a Board of Immigration Appeals decision that would have allowed the deportation of Paul Wilson Dorman, a gay man also living in New Jersey with his partner.
"Pursuant to my authority set forth in 8 C.F.R. § 1003.1(h)(1)(i), I order that the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals ("Board") in this case applying Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act ('DOMA'), 1 U.S.C. § 7, be vacated, and that this matter be referred to me for review," Holder wrote.
Eric Berndt, the supervising attorney for the National Asylum Partnership on Sexual Minorities at the National Immigrant Justice Center, told Metro Weekly that the Attorney General had "taken [an] extraordinary step."
"It certainly appears that the judge’s decision today was based, at least in part, on Attorney General Holder’s decision vacating the order in the Dorman case," Immigration Equality communications director Steve Ralls told Raw Story.
"Immigration Equality is certainly hopeful that the Holder decision, and its impact on today’s ruling, portends more good things for other couples. The Attorney General has clearly heard the recent demands, from Members of Congress and Immigration Equality, for an end to the unnecessary harm DOMA is inflicting upon LGBT immigrant families," he added.
"There are countless other couples, in heartwrenching situations, who should not be torn apart by an unconstitutional law. Our hope is that the Administration is prepared to intervene and prevent their separations, too."
Massachusetts senator John Kerry (D) and 11 of his Senate colleagues sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice last month asking them to hold green card applications of bi-national same sex couples in abeyance instead of rejecting them while the courts litigate the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said in late March that it would accept green card applications from gays and lesbians with spouses from abroad.
The administration said, however, that the law would continue to be enforced pending action by Congress or a final determination by the courts.