In a significant victory for same-sex parents, the U.S. State Department on Monday backed down in two cases where it had been challenging the citizenship of children born abroad to married two-dad couples who were U.S. citizens.
The State Department withdrew its appeal in Kiviti vs. Pompeo, a case involving dads Roee and Adiel Kiviti, who legally married in California in 2013, and had their daughter Kessem via surrogacy in Canada in 2019. Because Kessem was born outside the U.S. and only has a biological connection to Adiel, however, the State Department considered Kessem as “born out of wedlock.” The department would not grant her citizenship unless she had a biological relationship to a U.S. citizen parent who had resided in the U.S. for five years. Even though both Roee and Adiel are U.S. citizens, Adiel was born in Israel and was one year short of the residency requirement.
The dads sued the State Department in 2019 with the help of Lambda Legal and Immigration Equality and pro bono counsel Morgan Lewis, arguing that the residency requirement didn’t apply to the children of married U.S. citizens. The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled in June that Kessem should be granted citizenship and that the Immigration and Nationality Act “does not require a biological relationship with both parents.”
After this week’s withdrawal by the State Department, Roee Kiviti said in a press statement:
We are very relieved, on behalf of our daughter, on behalf of our family, and on behalf of LGBT families across this great country of ours. The law was always clear. We knew it, the courts knew it, and now the State Department knows it, too.
Adiel Kiviti added:
This was never just about us. It was always about standing up for what’s right. We are grateful to those who did it before us, and we are humbled to be a part of the ongoing struggle for justice.
The State Department also said this week that it would not appeal the district court’s decision in Mize-Gregg v. Pompeo, where it had been challenging the citizenship of Simone Mize-Gregg, daughter of U.S. citizen’s Derek Mize and Jonathan Gregg. The men had legally 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. Gregg himself had been born in London to a married U.S. citizen and was therefore a U.S. citizen since birth—but like Adiel Kiviti, was short of the five-year residency requirement in the U.S. That should not have been an issue, however, since he was married to a U.S. citizen—but the State Department refused Simone’s citizenship, treating her as “born out of wedlock.” The dads sued the State Department in 2019 with the help of the same organizations as the Kivitis. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia found in their favor August.
Mize and Gregg said in a statement yesterday after the State Department said it would not appeal that decision:
We are extremely grateful that this fight is over and won. All we ever wanted was for Simone to be treated fairly. This process has reaffirmed for us that standing up for equal treatment is always right, no matter how difficult it is or long it may take.
Two more couples have sued the State Department for similar reasons. In October, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Dvash-Banks family, recognizing their child’s birthright citizenship. And a case involving two moms is now before a district court in New Jersey. There’s no word yet on whether the State Department will withdraw in these cases as well, but as Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, senior attorney at Lambda Legal and one of the lawyers for the families, said yesterday, “We hope that the Trump Administration and the State Department will abide by these courts’ decisions when it encounters other families headed by same-sex couples. No family should have to go through what the Kiviti and Mize-Gregg families endured.”
Pope Francis holds his speech during an International Prayer Meeting for Peace (Vatican Pool/Getty Images)
Pope Francis has given his backing to same-sex civil unions for the first time, in a major break from Catholic teachings.
The 83-year-old leader gave the nod to gay unions in an interview for the documentary Francesco, which premiered at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday (October 21).
The pontiff said: “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”
He added: “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”
The comments are a significant break from his own past comments as well as the position of the church, which has long deployed its lobbying influence to oppose any legal recognition of same-sex relationships.
Pope Francis has previously opposed same-sex civil unions and adoption.
As noted by the Catholic News Agency, in his 2013 book On Heaven and Earth Pope Francis condemned laws “assimilating” homosexual relationships to marriage as “an anthropological regression”.
He also warned that same-sex couples gaining the right to form unions and adopt could “affect children”, insisting: “Every person needs a male father and a female mother that can help them shape their identity.”
Catholic opposition led to repeated defeats over a civil union law in Italy, before a watered-down version was finally approved in 2016 in the face of continued opposition from the church.
As the bill was discussed in 2014, high-ranking cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, claimed: “It is irresponsible to weaken the family by creating new forms of unions… it only confuses people and has the effect of being a sort of Trojan horse, undermining culturally and socially the core of humanity.”
In 2003, under Pope John Paul II, the Vatican warned: “Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity.”
While Pope Francis has a track record of public comments in support of LGBT+ people’s individual freedoms, critics say he has done little on paper to end the church’s discriminatory practises and lobbying in opposition to equal rights.
There are still countless cases of Catholic schools firing teachers for being gay, and Catholic adoption agencies have fought for the right to exclude same-sex parents. Bishops have also led the defence of conversion therapy practises, which pro-LGBT+ voices in the church say is still commonplace in Catholicism.
Pope Francis’ comments on same-sex civil unions hailed as a ‘major step forward’.
Responding to his the remarks, the pro-LGBT+ Jesuit priest Rev. James Martin said they were a “a major step forward in the church’s support for LGBT people.”
He said: “The Pope’s speaking positively about civil unions also sends a strong message to places where the church has opposed such laws.”
Director Evgeny Afineevsky received considerable access for the film Francesco, part of which addresses the leader’s outreach to LGBT+ people.
The film recounts the story of two gay Italian men who say the leader encouraged them to raise their children with the Pope.
“He didn’t mention what was his opinion on my family. Probably he’s following the doctrine on this point,” one of the men said.
Pope Francis has had a chequered history with the LGBT+ community.
In 2013, he made global headlines when he called on the Catholic church to “show mercy, not condemnation” to gay people – representing a stark shift in tone from his predecessors.
But in 2019, he told a Spanish newspaper that parents who see signs of homosexuality in their children should “consult a professional” – a comment that was considered by many to endorse conversion therapy.
Meanwhile, he has been staunch in his opposition to trans identities, comparing them to nuclear war and genetic manipulation in 2015.
In 2019, the Vatican released a document claiming that “gender ideology” is a “move away from nature”.
Ann Widdecombe has previously backed gay cure therapy. (Steve Taylor / Echoes Wire / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Ann Widdecombe, the British former lawmaker known for her high-decibel anti-LGBT+ views, drew criticism Sunday (18 October) for saying “families” wouldn’t be interested in watching a same-sex couple dance on Strictly Come Dancing.
Nicola Adams, the lesbian Olympic boxer, joined seasoned professional dancer Katya Jones on the dancefloor Saturday evening (17 October) to become Strictly‘s first same-sex pairing in what was hailed as a huge leap in LGBT+ representation in Britain.
The 73-year-old, who herself appeared on BBC One ballroom show in 2010, rang out in reaction against the landmark moment of television because of course she did.
She told The Sunday Times: “I don’t think it is what viewers of Strictly, especially families, are looking for.
“But that’s up to the audience and the programme.”
‘Society has evolved past the need for asking Ann Widdecombe for her opinions’.
Throughout her decades-long career as a Conservative Party turned Brexit Party politician, Widdecombe has emerged as one of Britain’s most anti-LGBT+ hard-liners.
She has often wielded her megaphone platform to compare the coronavirus to AIDS, brand the acceptance of transgender people “lunacy”, suggest gay people can be “cured” and back businesses who refuse to serve gay customers.
As a result, countless LGBT+ Twitter users took aim at Widdecombe’s comments, with many seeking to stress that the opening episode of the seventeenth season was one of its most-watched launches since 2017.
Ann Widdecombe: “I don’t think it is what viewers of Strictly, especially families, are looking for. But that’s up to the audience and the programme.”
The use of ‘families’ is *such* a homophobic trope, the view that LGBT visibility is somehow harmful. https://t.co/RPKeolGTkm
We shouldn’t expect any less from this proven homophobe. And the likes of Strictly and Channel 4 are partly to blame for legitimising her views by giving her platforms as some “national treasure” https://t.co/WdrsvKOByi
Nicola Adams seriously doesn’t care what homophobes think.
As Adams takes to the BBC One show’s iconic dancefloor each week, the 37-year-old said she refuses to be stung by homophobic viewers.
“I’m expecting the same sort of thing I got with women’s boxing in the beginning – there will always be some resisters, but once they know you’re here to stay, they get used to it,” she told Radio Times.
“Women dance together all the time in nightclubs. Traditionally I guess men and women would dance together when they were courting, so the older generation have that in their heads.”
She added: “So someone’s going to comment on Twitter? It’s nothing, it won’t faze me at all.
“If they don’t like it, they’re going to have to deal with it or switch to another channel.”
Two men in Croatia have become the country’s first same-sex foster parents after a three-year struggle.
Mladena Kožica and Ive Šegote applied to become foster parents in 2017. Although they passed all the required tests, they were rejected because they were in a same-sex life partnership. Same-sex couples cannot marry in Croatia, but may enter into “life partnerships”—and the one area where same-sex partnerships were unequal to marriage was in fostering and adoption. The couple appealed to the Family Ministry, were again rejected, and then sued. In December 2019 they won their case to become foster parents, reported Deutsche Welle.
Daniel Martinovic, head of the country’s Rainbow Family Association, an advocacy and networking organization, told Barron’s, “This gives us hope that things in our country can still change.” He said he would continue to fight for “full marital and family equality” including the right to adopt children (which, as this article explains, is still an open question).
Šegote is also the author of the first picture book in Eastern Europe to depict a family with same-sex parents.
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
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.”
Almost every country has implemented social distancing measures because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The measures have thrown many large-scale family gatherings into disarray – especially weddings.
Queerty caught up with four same-sex couples who all wed in the last few weeks to find out how the virus had made them change their plans.
Michael and Josh
Michael McPhee, 32, and Josh Stock, 30, live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. They met via a dating app in 2012 and got engaged in 2017.
Their original plan was to hold their wedding over two days, with a ceremony for 30-40 people on July 11, followed by a community hall reception the following day for 100 people. The ceremony would take place on Edmonton’s historic High Level Bridge streetcar, followed by a gathering at a nearby restaurant.
“We started getting nervous about what would happen to the wedding halfway through March,” says Josh. “The province of Alberta started to shut down on March 17, 2020.”
The men paused their wedding planning until May, to review the situation.
“We gave some thought to postponing the date to later in 2020, but I had zero confidence that gathering restrictions would be lifted to the degree we needed them to go ahead with our plans. The streetcar service notified us they were likely to not operate and offered us a refund. We accepted.”
“I was reading local news when I saw a story about physically distanced mini-weddings for up to 15 persons (the largest number of persons allowed to gather at the time under Alberta’s restrictions) at Edmonton’s historic Fairmont Hotel Macdonald. The hotel was offering a space for a ceremony and a reception if needed. I called to reserve immediately,” says Josh.
“Fifteen persons meant 15 persons: this included us, photographers, and wedding officiant. This meant we were allowed just nine guests. We decided to have two sets of friends for our wedding party and immediate family only (e.g. no spouses). This was extremely difficult to do, and it wasn’t possible to eliminate hurt feelings.”
The men purchased CA$500 of customized face masks for the wedding party (“We decided we might as well have fun with this and it would make the event even more memorable”), along with hand sanitizer.
Josh got permission from his work to set up a Zoom call using his workplace account to capture the ceremony for those unable to attend. He also sync-ed the speakers to his Apple Watch so he could control the music (e.g. going down the aisle, etc).
Besides some nerves and ensuring all the Zoom and other tech was working, the ceremony itself went without a hitch. In the end, they were also able to increase the guest list to 20 as restrictions were eased slightly just days before the ceremony.
Afterward, Josh says they, “Went home and went back to work after just a couple of days off. We wanted to go on a honeymoon, but it’s obviously not the right time to travel. We will revisit this in the years to come, perhaps as an anniversary idea in the coming years.”
Jordan and Javontre
Jordan, 26, and Javontre Booker-Medley, 23, like in Winston Salem, North Carolina. They met in High School
“I was working on a musical and needed some extra stagehands and our mutual friend introduced us,” remembers Jordan. “We started working on the show and texting all the time about girl problems, etc, etc. Like most middle/high school boys our age that haven’t yet admitted that they dream about rainbows and unicorns!
“We eventually started going out a lot, with friends and then alone. Those hangouts evolved into dates and eventually into us dating on and off for the last six years. We even went to the same college for dance!
“Everyone knew we were gonna be married one day and I couldn’t be happier to have found my soulmate.”
They got engaged on July 1st, 2019, and planned to marry July 25th, 2020.
“When the pandemic hit we initially canceled the whole event!” says Jordan. “It wasn’t until restrictions on gathering started to ease up in June that we decided to put the event back on! We reduced our guest list from 160 to 31 people. We also had to change our venue which was originally in uptown Charlotte, NC. We ended up doing a small backyard wedding in Winston Salem NC, where we currently live.
“We did everything ourselves instead of hiring a planner. The only vendor we needed was for the cake and the food. We literally designed everything ourselves from the centerpieces, table arrangements, floral arrangements, down to the napkins on the tables.
“We had to significantly change our plans but it turned out amazing and we cried so much on the day! The love that surrounded us was more than anything we could have asked for!”
Jay and Ames
Ames, 36 previously lived in New York City. Jay, 49, lives in Atlanta, GA. They met in June 2019.
“Jay was visiting NYC for World Pride and we met through a mutual friend that thought we would get along well and I could give him a nice tour of the city,” recalls Ames.
“When the pandemic hit, Jay flew to NYC to pick me up and drove me back to Atlanta with my dog and two cats,” he continues. “We have been inseparable since.
“We knew we wanted to get married in the near future, but we had so many hoops to jump through just to live in the same state! We didn’t have a formal engagement. We pulled into a parking lot and I had no idea where we were going, and Jay said, ‘time to look at rings!’ It has been really important to us to support small business during the pandemic, so we purchased our rings at Worthmore Jewelers, which is very LGBTQ-friendly!”
They got married on July 31.
“The date is important to me because it’s exactly five years from the day that I took my first shot of Testosterone to begin my medical transition!” says Ames.
“The ceremony was on our front porch. Our close friend Ben officiated, Luke was the witness, and Jackie photographed. We did not pre-write vows, just spoke from the heart.”
“Before the pandemic, we talked about what we would want our wedding day to be like. We wanted it to be an intimate celebration with our friends and family,” says Ames.
However, the pandemic made them reconsider.
“We were too worried that if we announced our plan to get married in advance that family and friends would travel, and we didn’t want to put anyone at risk or to feel guilty. Maybe we will have a celebration later, but we are very content with everything. The pandemic brought us together under one roof and we can start our life together.”
Keith and Chris
Keith, 34, and Chris, 33, live in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. They met online just over four years ago.
“We got engaged last summer at our favorite camping spot: Sombrio Beach on Vancouver Island,” says Chris.
“The pandemic put a fairly large wrench in our plans. We had to cut the guest list down from 105 to 45. We also had to organize our own food and rentals because our caterer couldn’t promise us they could fulfill their contract. We ended up cooking our own food for all the guests.
“We both have fairly large immediate families so even at 45 guests, we weren’t mixing too many groups of people who don’t already see each other.”
The men had always planned to marry outdoors. The location was the backyard of Keith’s parents in Aldergrove, BC. The men’s dog, Gus, acted as ring bearer for their July, 4th, wedding.
Were they disappointed at having to downscale?
“Initially, we thought we may not even be able to have a wedding… then British Columbia went into phase 2 COVID restrictions which meant gatherings of 50 or less were OK as long as you could keep your distance,” says Chris.
“I think the hardest part for both of us was taking an already-small, planned wedding of 105 and trimming it down even more. We had to tell a lot of people we love that they couldn’t come anymore. This is after the invites went out. There were a lot of tough phone calls, but in the end, everyone understood. We had done so much planning and ultimately decided to just move forward with a smaller group. We have a super hands-on family and everyone was a huge help!”
The Trump Administration has filed a new law brief with the Supreme Court. In it, the administration argues that adoption agencies should have a right to refuse to home children with same-sex couples based on religious beliefs.
The debate rose out of the City of Philadelphia, where the city itself had a contract with Catholic Social Services to help place needy children in foster and adoptive care. The city terminated its contract with CSS in 2018 when the agency refused to place any of its children with same-sex couples, citing a city law that requires nondiscrimination by all agencies contracting with the city government. CSS claimed it would not abide by the regulation, citing religious exemption.