Federal Court Orders U.S. State Dept. to Recognize Citizenship of Child with Married Same-Sex Parents

Federal Court Orders U.S. State Dept. to Recognize Citizenship of
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A federal court yesterday ordered the U.S. State Department to recognize the citizenship of the two-year-old daughter of a married two-dad couple, both U.S. citizens, in the second immigration victory for same-sex parents this summer.

Derek Mize, Jonathan Gregg, and daughter Simone Mize-Gregg. Photo credit: Lambda Legal

Derek Mize, Jonathan Gregg, and daughter Simone Mize-Gregg. Photo credit: Lambda Legal

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia told the State Department that it must recognize the citizenship of Simone Mize-Gregg, daughter of Derek Mize and Jonathan Gregg, who married in New York in 2015 and now live in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2018, they had Simone via surrogacy in England and both fathers are listed on her birth certificate, Lambda Legal tells us. When they applied for recognition of Simone’s U.S. citizenship, however, the U.S. consulate in London rejected their application. Although both men are U.S. citizens, only one of them has a biological connection to Simone.

The State Department chose to disregard the men’s marriage and treat Simone as if she was born out of wedlock, although, as Lambda Legal explains, “The Immigration and Nationality Act [INA] states that children of married U.S. citizens born abroad are U.S. citizens from birth so long as one of their parents has lived in the U.S. at some point.” Despite this, “the State Department routinely denies that right to same-sex couples and their marital children.”

The couple sued the State Department in July 2019 with the help of Lambda Legal, Immigration Equality, and pro bono counsel Morgan Lewis. The court yesterday found that the INA “does not require children to share a biological relationship with both citizen parents in order for those children to acquire citizenship at birth.”

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, senior counsel and health care strategist at Lambda Legal, said “The agency’s policy was irreconcilable with the law and our Constitution’s guarantee to equality because it treated the children of married, same-sex parents differently from the children of other married parents.”

This past June, another married two-dad couple in Maryland won a similar lawsuit against the Trump administration’s State Department—but the State Department has appealed. It has also appealed a 2019 ruling that found in favor of a married, two-dad family in California trying to secure citizenship for their child. And a two-mom family and their two sons in New Jersey are also still fighting the State Department for their right to be legally recognized as a family. (See more about them in my February 2019 piece.)

Aaron C. Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality, said of Mize and Gregg’s victory, “We celebrate the court’s decision, which acknowledges what has been true since the day she was born. Simone Mize-Gregg is a citizen of the United States. Today’s decision in Georgia reaffirms what every other federal court who has heard this issue has held: family means more than biology alone. The State Department should change its discriminatory and unconstitutional policy immediately before it hurts another family.”

Hear, hear.

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