SAN FRANCISCO
08/23/2011 04:08 am ET | Updated Oct 22, 2011

Alex Benshimol And Doug Gentry Can Stay Together: Deportation Case Dropped Against Same-Sex Couple

Doug Gentry no longer needs to live in "constant fear" that his husband of six years, Venezuelan-born Alex Benshimol, will face deportation.

The Obama Administration has decided to end deportation proceedings against Benshimol, who had overstayed his visa after entering the United States in 1999 but legally married Gentry in Connecticut last year.

The decision, made by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), marks a huge victory for same-sex marriage advocates and represents Obama's recent shift in immigration policy. SFGate reports:

The announcement in a case pending before an immigration judge in San Francisco represents the administration's decision to put a greater focus on deporting criminals and less emphasis on removing illegal immigrants who are otherwise law-abiding and have family ties in the United States.

Families, the administration has concluded, include gay and lesbian couples.

Last month, San Francisco immigration judge Marilyn Teeter delayed deportation proceedings against Benshimol until 2013, a motion which gave ICE 60 days to decide to drop the case permanently. ICE dropped a similar case against a New Jersey-based couple in July.

Meanwhile, San Francisco husbands Anthony Makk and Bradford Wells made national headlines recently after Australian-born Makk was denied a marriage visa. Though the couple has been legally married for seven years and Makk serves as the primary caretaker for Wells, who suffers from AIDS, Makk faces deportation after his visa expires Thursday.

It is unclear whether the White House's recent announcements will influence the case, which Makk has appealed with the support of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

"There is still a long fight ahead to get full equality for this couple and other couples," Levi Soloway said, Benshimol and Gentry's attorney, told SFGate.