Tim Coco and Genesio Oliveira married in 2005, among the throngs who wed after same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. But for nearly three years, they lived apart — Mr. Coco in Haverhill and Mr. Oliveira in his native Brazil — because federal law does not recognise their union. On Wednesday, Mr. Oliveira returned to Massachusetts for an emotional reunion after federal immigration officials took the rare step of granting him permission to stay for one year on humanitarian grounds, clearing the way for him to try again for legal residency. His return followed personal appeals by Senator John F. Kerry, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on their behalf.

“We're overjoyed. Words can't express it,” Mr. Coco, 49, an ad agency owner, said on Thursday from their home in Haverhill, where he had decorated his yard with yellow ribbons to mark their long separation. Mr. Kerry called the couple heroes for persevering in their marriage. “Here were two people who loved each other and were as committed to each other as you could ever imagine, and a quirk in the law was being allowed to keep them apart. I just wanted to do everything I could to reunite them,” he said in a statement.

Mr. Kerry also praised Napolitano and Holder, saying, “They really listened, and they righted this wrong.'' Unlike heterosexuals, gays and lesbians cannot sponsor their immigrant spouses for legal U.S. residency.

Mr. Oliveira was allowed to return because U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is under the Department of Homeland Security, granted him humanitarian parole. Parole is a rarely used mechanism that permits otherwise inadmissible people to enter the U.S. for “urgent humanitarian reasons” or “significant public benefit,” said agency spokesman Chris Bentley. About 250 to 350 people are granted such parole every year, he said. He declined to comment on Mr. Oliveira's case because of privacy laws. Holder's office did not respond to a request for comment. — New York Times News Service

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