AN online petition with over 130,000 signatures that calls for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to grant Brisbane-based gay man Ali Choudhry a visa to remain in Australia has become one of the biggest and most successful community-run petitions in Australian history.
This week Choudhry was looking at a potential deportation to Pakistan, his country of birth, after his application for a visa through his de facto relationship with partner Matthew Hynd was rejected by the Immigration Department.
Choudhry has no memory of Pakistan and cannot read or write the local language, as he was raised in the USA before moving to Australia over four years ago.
Since the couple’s plight emerged over the holiday season, their story has struck a chord beyond Australia’s LGBTI community. It has fuelled the marriage equality debate, added to the Immigration Minister’s growing list of media headaches, and even went worldwide.
Although Choudhry and Hynd ran a successful crowdsourcing campaign that saw them gain enough funds to submit an appeal to the Migrations Review Tribunal, it wasn’t until a stranger they had never met started an online petition on the GetUp!-backed Community Run website.
Hailing from Ipswich, Paul Toner said he felt like he had to do something to help Choudhry and Hynd after he reflected on the happiness he had with his own wife.
According to Getup!, Toner’s campaign, which started last Friday, became the biggest and fastest-growing petition Community Run has ever seen – bolstered by American gay celebrity and former Star Trek star George Takei sharing the link with his five million-plus Facebook fans on Monday, stating that the couple’s struggle was “a heartbreaking and important example of how marriage inequality in Australia is destroying lives and must end”.
The torrent of support following Takei’s post added 10,000 signatures to the petition in just 45 minutes and crashed Community Run’s servers momentarily.
On Tuesday, after gaining over 130,000 signatures within just four days, Toner was flown down to Sydney to personally deliver the petition (pictured above) to the Federal Government offices in Sydney.
“If he’s deported, there’s a real risk Ali could be imprisoned for life in Pakistan, where being openly gay carries a long jail sentence,” Toner said.
“Ali cannot understand why theirs is not considered a legitimate long-term partnership, and neither can I.”