Author Archives: Stephen Martinez

  1. Mize-Gregg Family

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    Derek Mize and Jonathan Gregg met in New York City in 2014. It was love at first sight.

    Jonathan is a U.S. citizen, born to an American mother and British father in England. He moved to the U.S. to be with Derek, and the two married in 2015 in New York City. Their daughter, Simone, was born via surrogacy in England in 2018. The family now lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

    The first year of Simone’s life was not easy. In April 2019, the U.S. State Department refused to recognize Simone’s citizenship, instead treating her as if she were born out of wedlock. Simone was allowed to enter the country on a tourist visa, which expired after three months.

    The law clearly states that because Derek and Jonathan are married U.S. citizens, their daughter has been a U.S. citizen since birth. However, the State Department is treating married same-sex couples like single parents, requiring them to demonstrate a biological relationship to their child and to have resided in the U.S. for five years prior to their child’s birth. Jonathan does not meet the five-year residency requirement, but as a married U.S. citizen, he is not subject to that requirement.

    As the daughter of two married U.S. citizens, Simone is a citizen, plain and simple. That’s why in July 2019, Immigration Equality and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit against the U.S. State Department on behalf of the family.

    Case Documents

  2. Dvash-Banks Family

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    Andrew is a dual U.S. and Canadian citizen who grew up in Los Angeles. He moved to Israel to work and study, and there he met Elad, his future husband. Andrew and Elad knew they wanted to marry and have a family, but because of the Defense of Marriage Act, Andrew could not sponsor Elad for a visa to be with him in the U.S., where all of Andrew’s family is.

    Andrew and Elad moved to Canada, where they were able to legally marry and have their marriage recognized so Andrew could sponsor Elad. There they had twin sons, Ethan and Aiden, through surrogacy.

    When they sought recognition of the twins’ U.S. citizenship, Andrew and Elad were forced to submit DNA tests and other documentation of their biological relationships to their boys, even though no such requirement exists for the children of a married U.S. citizen. Because one son was conceived with the sperm of one father and the other son with the sperm of the other father, one of these fraternal twins is being treated by the U.S. government as a U.S. citizen while the other was forced to enter the U.S. on a tourist visa.

    In 2018, Immigration Equality filed a case against the U.S. State Department challenging the discriminatory policy. A year later, a federal judge ruled that Ethan Dvash-Banks has been a U.S. citizen since birth. However, the U.S. State Department appealed that decision, insisting a married U.S. citizen must have a biological connection to their child in order to pass on birthright citizenship.

    Nowhere in the law does it say a married U.S. citizen must be biologically related to their child to pass on their citizenship. It’s discrimination—pure and simple—and Immigration Equality will continue to fight on behalf of LGBTQ families until this policy is eliminated.

    Case Documents

  3. Zaccari-Blixt Family

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    Allison was living in New York City when she met Stefania, who was there on vacation from Italy. After Stefania went back, the two stayed in touch and visited as much as they could. Though they wanted to live together in the United States, Allison could not sponsor Stefania for a visa because of the Defense of Marriage Act (which was eventually struck down in 2015 by the Supreme Court). So the two women moved to London and built a life there, including getting married and having two sons, Lucas and Massi.

    Because Allison was born and raised in the U.S., she is able to pass on her citizenship to her children even though they were born abroad. The State Department recognized Massi as being Allison’s son because she had given birth to him. However, it denied that Lucas, who was carried by Stefania, was Allison’s son. In fact, in denying that Lucas was a citizen the State Department explicitly advised the couple that it was using a policy applying solely to unwed mothers—refusing to recognize Allison and Stefania’s marriage.

    Immigration Equality wrote to the State Department to advise it of its mistake and to request reconsideration of its incorrect determination in Lucas’s case, but the State Department refused to acknowledge Lucas’s citizenship and Allison and Stefania’s marriage. In January 2018, Immigration Equality filed a lawsuit against the State Department.

    The State Department has responded by opposing our demand that it acknowledge Lucas’s citizenship. Moreover it still refuses to acknowledge that Allison and Stefania are married, and has moved to dismiss the case. In 2019, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. rejected the State Department’s motion to dismiss in its entirety.

    Also in 2019, Allison, Stefania, Lucas, and Massi relocated to New Jersey, and their case was transferred from D.C. to a district court in New Jersey.

    Case Documents

  4. Kiviti Family

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    Roee was born in Israel, grew up in Southern California, and became a U.S. citizen in 1993. He met Adiel in 2009 and they married in 2013 in California. The couple lived abroad until they moved back to the U.S. in 2015. Adiel was born in Israel and became a U.S. citizen in 2019.

    In 2016 they welcomed their first child into their lives. Lev was born in Canada through surrogacy, and was rightfully recognized as a U.S. citizen at birth.

    Roee and Adiel’s second child, daughter Kessem, was born in Canada in 2019. When they applied for her passport, a State Department employee wrote “surrogacy” on their application, and a group of employees analyzed their application. They were initially told Kessem’s application was approved, and they paid for her passport. The next day, Adiel received a phone call from a State Department attorney asking about his residency and informing him that the government would determine Kessem’s citizenship through a provision of the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act) that only applies to children “born out of wedlock.”

    Kessem’s passport application was ultimately denied, and the couple was told the U.S. government does not recognize Kessem as a citizen. She has been living in Maryland on a Canadian tourist visa that expired in September 2019.

    On September 12, 2019, Immigration Equality and Lambda Legal sued the U.S. State Department on behalf of Roee and Adiel Kiviti and their daughter, Kessem. It is the fourth suit filed by Immigration Equality demanding the State Department change its discriminatory policy.

    On June 17, 2020, the Kiviti family won their case against the U.S. State Department—a federal judge in Maryland recognized Kessem Kiviti as a U.S. citizen.


    Press releases


    Case documents

  5. Yaming

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    My name is Yaming and I am a PhD student. I am also a proud gay man from China, and an Immigration Equality client.

    I first came to the United States for school and work in 2004. Here, I lived openly as a gay man and got involved in the LGBTQ community. In 2009, I went back to China for work. Even though I didn’t feel free, I thought I could live there with the support of my family and friends. That changed when I was arrested by the police for being gay. They hurt and humiliated me, and afterward, my life felt like a nightmare. I was always afraid and didn’t feel fully human — I even considered suicide.

    In 2011, I returned to the United States to begin a master’s program. I eventually applied for asylum on my own, but I received notice that my application was likely to be rejected. I again felt a sense of despair. I realized I needed help. Thankfully, I found Immigration Equality through an internet search. They fought for me for two years until we won. It was a long process, but it was worth it.

    My application was finally approved on my birthday in April 2017. It was the best day of my life. I finally felt like a free person.

    I would like to thank everyone who has helped me. I may not know your name, but without you I couldn’t be who I am today. With your support, I was given a new life without fear. I just submitted my application for a green card, and can’t wait to receive my doctorate and begin the next stage of my life in this country.

  6. Victor and Derick

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    Victor left Colombia because he felt unsafe as gay man. Once, he was attacked by a group of men as he left his job at a disco, and was blamed for his own assault by the police.

    He eventually fled to the United States, where he fell in love with Derick, his future husband. However, six months into their relationship, disaster struck. Victor had to return to Colombia to take care of his sick mother and was detained when he tried to re-enter the United States.

    “I thought about my life, if everything ended this way, if my dreams were simply ripped from my hands the way an adult snatches a sweet from the hands of a child. I thought about my decisions, about the anguish that my mother would be feeling and how devastated Derick must be.”

    Luckily, their story has a happy ending. Derick contacted Immigration Equality and they were able to secure Victor’s release. The couple married in December 2013, and today, they own the Freakin Rican restaurant in Astoria, Queens.

  7. Terry, Adriana, and Darien

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    I knew I was a boy for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I borrowed my older brother’s clothes—saggy pants and oversized shirts—and wanted to play sports and marbles like the boys in my neighborhood.

    My mother tried to beat the boy out of me. I was scolded and abused by family members for being a marimacho (“dyke”). I was convinced that I was never going to be able to live as my true self. I feared I would hurt myself if I didn’t leave Mexico.

    As a teen, I fled my hometown and made the dangerous 3,000-mile journey to New York where my sister lived. There I experienced a brand-new fear—that I would be deported back to Mexico and the abuse I fought so hard to escape.

    But last year, with Immigration Equality on my side, I won asylum! Today my wife, Adriana, and six-year-old son, Darien, are the center of my universe. I can’t imagine being separated from them, and thanks to Immigration Equality, I don’t have to. 

  8. Tatiana

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    In Russia, Tatiana was a celebrated and respected judge. When she exposed government corruption in 2009, she was severely beaten and threatened with death. Tatiana fled to the U.S. with her then husband and thirteen-year-old son, Alexey.

    After living in the U.S. for some time, Tatiana realized that she had been suppressing her sexual orientation. When she came out to her husband as a lesbian, he beat her and their son, and threatened to take the family back to Russia.

    Again, mother and son fled for their lives. They were able to secure asylum with the help of Immigration Equality. Now Tatiana is happily partnered and is making plans to marry her fiancée.

  9. Tarek

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    My name is Tarek and I am a gay man from Egypt. It is a crime to be gay there. As a young man, I was arrested, persecuted, and humiliated by the police for kissing another man. After my arrest, I was unable to find a job and I lost many of my friends.

    I felt like my life was ruined. I eventually started a relationship with a man in the United States. I came here to visit him but we broke up after a month. It was then that I found out about Immigration Equality.

    Immigration Equality helped me win asylum and start a new life that I love. Today, I live in Brooklyn and do freelance architecture and costume design. One day, I will become a famous costume designer and dream of dressing Britney Spears and Lady Gaga. I recently designed a custom headdress for Miss Universe Iraq.

    Having asylum has changed my life. I came out to everyone I know on Facebook. This would have been unthinkable before I had asylum. But because I have so many people supporting me now, coming out has given me peace of mind and a sense of relief I have never felt before.