A married gay couple in San Francisco who have lived together for nearly 20 years have been told that one must leave the US by August 25th.

Bradford Wells and Anthony John Makk married seven years ago in Massachusetts. For most of the last 19 years, they have shared a home in the Castro district.

Mr Wells has severe AIDS-related health problems and Mr Makk, an Australian citizen, is his carer. However, Mr Makk has been denied permission to stay in the US because federal law does not recognise their marriage.

The Obama administration denied the application despite the president describing the Defence of Marriage Act – which bars federal recognition of gay marriage – as “abhorrent”.

While the administration said last year it would no longer defend the law in court, it is still enforcing it as case level. Officials have said they will exercise discretion on a case-by-case basis.

Steve Ralls, a spokesman for Immigration Equality, which is helping the couple, told the San Francisco Chronicle: “We are appealing to the Obama administration to begin to put into action what they’ve said repeatedly they can do.

Mr Makk has no criminal record and says he has never been in the country illegally. “The Department of Homeland Security and ICE have said again and again that they can exercise discretion in individual cases, but they have not done so for a single gay or lesbian couple yet.”

Mr Wells said: “I’m married just like any other married person in this country. At this point, the government can come in and take my husband and deport him. It’s infuriating. It’s upsetting.

“I have no power, no right to keep my husband in this country. I love this country, I live here, I pay taxes and I have no right to share my home with the person I married.”