PD Who Helped Partner Tie Sham Knot Seeks Legal Immigration Alternative

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A St. Louis public defender who chose to break the law rather than lose the man he loves admits he made a serious mistake. But the lack of legally recognized marriage alternatives for same-sex couples is what tempted him to transgress, Eric Affholter says.

Now facing criminal fraud charges for arranging a sham marriage between his boyfriend, a Peruvian immigrant, and a fellow public defender, Affholter recently spoke with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to promote a proposed federal law that would allow a citizen to sponsor for legal residency a same-sex “permanent partner.”

Even in the handful of states that current allow same-sex civil unions or marriage, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, prevents a member of a same-sex couple from helping his or her partner become a citizen, says Adam Francoeur of Immigration Equality. Thus, only married heterosexuals have this right, and he and Affholter would like to see the Uniting American Families Act passed to level the playing field for same-sex couples.

Meanwhile, Affholter has lost his job – along with Collette Lewis, the female PD who “married” his boyfriend, and her boyfriend, Timothy J. O’Leary, a lawyer who also works for the government.

“It was illegal. And as a lawyer, I should have made a decision to uphold the law,” says Affholter, who says he faced an agonizing choice between giving up the relationship, moving to Peru–where his boyfriend, Pedro Cerna-Rojas, reportedly has returned since being charged–or breaking the law. “I’m enormously thankful that neither Collette or Tim have been charged,” Affholter tells the Post-Dispatch. They are both outstanding lawyers. And they have already suffered enormously for what was an incredible act of friendship.”

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