updated 1/31/2007 8:24:12 AM ET 2007-01-31T13:24:12

A Los Angeles immigration judge who previously denied a gay man's 2004 asylum bid on the grounds that the man simply could conceal his sexual orientation if he returned to his native Mexico reversed the decision Tuesday.

In allowing Jorge Sota Vega to remain in the United States, Judge John D. Taylor said that gays should not be required to dress or act a certain way to avoid persecution and that Vega's lawyers proved he would be at risk if he were deported to Mexico.

Vega, 38, who lived in Tuxpan and Guadalajara before he fled to the United States, said he was beaten by police and told by authorities in Mexico he would be killed.

His case attracted attention from national gay rights groups after Taylor denied his application, saying that even though there was evidence suggesting Vega had faced harassment, he could live safely in Mexico because he did not look gay and could hide the fact that he was.

"It seemed to us this is a real double standard," said Jon W. Davidson, legal director of Lambda Legal. "Courts don't deny asylum to someone based on their political beliefs by saying, 'If you just didn't tell other people what you believed, you would be fine.'"

Vega, who now lives in New York, appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The San Francisco-based appeals court sent the case back to immigration court last year after finding that Vega's past persecution was reason enough to think he would be harmed in the future.

Davidson said Taylor's new ruling "showed a change in attitude and an understanding that the same standard should apply for gay people who are seeking asylum."

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