State Department Ends Policy That Denied Citizenship to Children of Same-Sex Couples

New York, NY (May 18, 2021) — Today, the U.S. State Department eliminated a longstanding policy refusing to acknowledge the U.S. citizenship of the children of many married same-sex couples. Previously, the State Department claimed that both parents must be biologically related to a child in order for them to be recognized as a U.S. citizen at birth. However, the Immigration and Nationality Act has never required a biological relationship for married parents. As such, every federal court that heard the issue found that the State Department’s policy was inconsistent with the statute. As of today, the State Department will recognize the children of all married U.S. citizens who are born abroad as citizens at birth.

“This is a remarkable moment for all the LGBTQ families who fought the U.S. State Department’s unconstitutional policy,” said Immigration Equality’s Executive Director, Aaron Morris. “It demonstrates that when our community is united, and relentlessly pushes back against discrimination, we win. We have once again affirmed that it is not biology but love that makes a family.”   

When the government made this change, U.S.-citizen Allison Blixt and Stefania Zaccari were in the middle of a lawsuit against the State Department for denying birthright citizenship to their son, Lucas Zaccari-Blixt. Because Lucas was carried by Stefania, an Italian citizen, he was not recognized as a citizen. U.S. birthright citizenship, however, does not depend on a biological relationship between the child and the U.S. citizen parent; it relies on whether the child is born of a married couple, one of whom is a U.S. citizen.  

“We are relieved and thankful that our fight for our family to be recognized by the government has finally ended,” said Allison Blixt, plaintiff in the case. “We knew we would succeed eventually, as trailblazers before us fought and won marriage equality.  Our marriage is finally recognized and treated equally.  Lucas, who made me a mother, will finally be treated as my son and recognized as American, as his brother always has been.” 

The State Department’s policy also failed to recognize the validity of the marriages between same-sex couples like Allison and Stefania. It deemed their children to be born out of wedlock, and it therefore considered the biological parent as unmarried. This interpretation was at odds with the clear intent of Congress in passing the Immigration and Nationality Act, and it deprives same-sex married couples of the fundamental rights and attributes of marriage.  

Immigration Equality and pro bono counsel, Sullivan and Cromwell LLP brought lawsuits on behalf of the Zaccari-Blixts, and another married couple, U.S.-citizen Andrew Dvash-Banks and his husband Elad Dvash-Banks. After they married, Andrew and Elad had twin boys—one of whom was recognized as a U.S. citizen and one of whom was not. Despite the fact that their sons were born four minutes apart, the State Department looked solely at biological relationships to determine whether the boys would be recognized as U.S. citizens at birth.  

With the support of Immigration Equality, Lambda Legal, and pro bono counsel Morgan Lewis, two more married same-sex couples Roee and Adiel Kiviti and Derek Mize and Jonathan Gregg also sued the U.S. State Department. In their cases, both fathers were U.S. citizens, but the policy treated the men who had a biological relationship with the child as single parents, subjecting them to more stringent requirements and denying that their children were U.S. citizens. 

All couples won recognition of the U.S. citizenship of their child through the courts, except for Allison and Stefania, whose case is still pending.  

Learn more about the families and view their case documents here: 

Zaccari-Blixt family

Dvash-Banks family 

Mize-Gregg family 

Kiviti family

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Immigration Equality is the nation’s leading LGBTQ immigrant rights organization. We represent and advocate for people from around the world fleeing violence, abuse, and persecution because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status.

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