Immigration Group Sues State Department for Discriminating Against Same-Gender Couples

Advocacy group Immigration Equality is suing the State Department over what the nonprofit claims is blatant discrimination against same-gender couples and their children. In a number of cases, one child of a couple was allegedly granted U.S. citizenship while the other was denied.

In years past, the Defense of Marriage Act’s Section 3 prevented the federal government from acknowledging and providing benefits for same-gender marriages — even as a number of U.S. states legalized same-gender unions. The Supreme Court overturned that legislation in 2013 and later revoked all state-level bans in 2015. Nevertheless, the initial legislation led many U.S. citizens to live with their partners in other countries so that they could get married and start a family.

One such couple included Allison, a U.S. citizen, and her wife Stefania, an Italian national. When Allison knew she wanted to build a life with Stefania, they moved to London, where they had two sons, Lucas and Massi. Because Alison is a U.S. citizen, she should be able to pass her citizenship on to her two children — this is the standard policy for heterosexual parents who give birth to children overseas. 

Imagine Allison’s utter shock, however, when the State Department told her that only one of her sons could be granted U.S. citizenship. Officials asserted that because Allison had given birth to Massi, while Stefania gave birth to Lucas, only Massi had a valid citizenship claim. The State Department then cited a rule designed solely for testing the claims of unwed mothers and their children.

In this interview, the couple describes their experience:

Unfortunately, this was not an isolated case for bi-national couples. Andrew, a U.S. citizen, and Elad, an Israeli citizen, have also faced this discrimination. In their case, one of their twin sons was accepted as a U.S. citizen, while the other was not — despite the fact that the boys were born minutes apart. The couple was then asked to prove blood relationships to their children, a provision that is usually only requested of unwed fathers. 

This video further explains the couple’s case and the extraordinary measures they had to undergo:

Immigration Equality is now representing these couples in two parallel lawsuits. The nonprofit charges that the varied application of standards for same-gender couples and heterosexual couples violates the U.S. Constitution, as well as the State Department’s own rules.

“The State Department is refusing to acknowledge the citizenship of children whose parents are same-sex married couples. This policy is not only illegal, it is unconstitutional,” Aaron C. Morris, Executive Director of Immigration Equality, explained. “This action by the State Department disenfranchises children born to bi-national same-sex parents and places an undue burden on their families.”

And years after the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, there’s certainly no excuse for this discrimination to persist.

To date, the State Department has refused to comment on the pending litigation. But ABC News reports that the administration has pointed to immigration rules on its website, stipulating that children must have a blood connection to a U.S. citizen.

Whether inadvertently or not, this policy speaks directly to the suit’s argument: The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that, under the U.S. Constitution, same-gender couples are entitled to the right to marry and to have their families treated equally under the law.

Here, the State Department appears to be treating these married couples differently from heterosexual married couples, despite a clear paper trail of a long-term relationship, lawful marriage licenses and the clear intent for both parents to be responsible for their children. To refuse to grant citizenship to one child when the other is virtually automatically recognized is not just unsustainable, but it’s also blatantly discriminatory.

And that’s a far cry from the American ideal of equality for all.

Photo Credit: Matt Popovich/Flickr

35 comments

Paulo R
Paulo R2 months ago

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Paulo R
Paulo R2 months ago

ty

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John B
John B2 months ago

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Jerome S
Jerome S3 months ago

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Jerome S
Jerome S3 months ago

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Jim Ven
Jim V3 months ago

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Jim Ven
Jim V3 months ago

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Tanya W
Tanya W3 months ago

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Tanya W
Tanya W3 months ago

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Richard E C
Richard E C3 months ago

Thank you.

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