Ali Choudhry and Matt Hynd (Photo credit: Kate Bailey)

Ali Choudhry and Matt Hynd (Photo credit: Kate Bailey)

Paul Toner is an Ipswich resident that heard about gay man Ali Choudhry (pictured above), who is at risk of being deported to Pakistan despite participating in a civil union ceremony that was later outlawed by the Queensland LNP Government. He writes exclusively for the Star Observer on the eve of delivering his Community Run petition on Getup!’s site, which at time of writing had nearly 70,000 signatures – making it one of the most successful online petitions in Australia’s history.

WHEN I created this petition, I never expected the tremendous community support it would gain.

It all started when my wife heard Ali Choudhry and Matthew Hynd’s story on the radio last Friday while she was driving to work.

Ali is facing deportation to Pakistan this Wednesday after his application for a visa was refused, despite being in a relationship with his partner Matt for nearly four years.

If he’s deported, there is a real risk Ali could be imprisoned for life in Pakistan, where being openly gay carries a long jail sentence. Having grown up in the USA, Ali is also unable to read or write the local language.

CLICK HERE to read Ali Choudhry’s full story

I have always believed in the concept of a fair go. For me, this means people have a right to be happy. Not necessarily rich or famous, just happy.

Paul Toner started the viral online petition to help Ali Choudhry stay in Australia

Paul Toner started the viral online petition to help Ali Choudhry stay in Australia

That’s the way I felt about my wife when I met her, and I still feel the same way.

Ali and Matt were one of the first gay couples in Queensland to register their civil union on March 12, 2012.

Unfortunately, their union was short-lived because the Queensland Government retrospectively made it null and void 12 weeks after their ceremony.

Nearly two years later, Ali now faces deportation to Pakistan after his application for a visa recognising his relationship with Matt was refused. He says he cannot understand why theirs is not considered a legitimate long-term partnership – and neither can I.

I was at home on holidays when my wife called about it. She wondered if we might be able to do something.

I Googled Ali’s name and found his story and a Pozible project he and Matt had started. Here were two people trying to be happy, trying to do things the right way.

Circumstances, misfortune and, in my opinion – a bad decision by the Immigration Department were turning their lives upside down.

They both have businesses and they both make a contribution to their local community. If they lived somewhere where they could get married (and stay married), they would be living happy, quiet lives.

Ali appears to me to be the sort of person we should be welcoming to Australia. We certainly should not send him back to a country where being gay is treated like a crime.

I didn’t know how to get in touch with Matt or Ali, but I thought a small petition on GetUp’s CommunityRun website might help. It wasn’t a difficult process and I borrowed the details from articles and postings by and about Ali and Matt.

I sent the details to my Facebook friends and my wife did the same. We came up with a list of people we could email as well, and then went back to a normal Friday.

By lunch, there were 100 signatures. When we looked again in the evening, it was in the thousands.

By Saturday, Matt was trying to get in touch, worried some nutter was trying to hijack their situation. I’ve since told him our story, and talking with Matt convinced me that he and Ali are definitely two people we should try to help.

By that stage it really wasn’t my petition anymore. There are many people out there promoting it and trying in some way to support Ali. I just happen to one of them – part of a petition that now belongs to over 50,000 people.

The real story here is not my story, but Matt and Ali and their attempts to find happiness.

I believe Ali Choudhry should be allowed to stay in Australia. I believe he and Matt Hynd should be allowed to be happy. Over 50,000 people who have heard their story agree. As more people hear their story, that number grows.

I hope the Immigration Minister is open to being convinced as well.

The petition can be signed here.

CLICK HERE to read what happened when Paul Toner delivered the petition to the minister’s office on Tuesday

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