It sounds unbelievable, but it’s true: The U.S. State Department has decided it’s not going to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples anymore. At least, not all the time. Sometimes it might. Maybe. If you’re lucky. But not when children’s citizenship is concerned.
Is this supposed to be how a functioning country runs?
This has come to light thanks to two couples and a nonprofit called Immigration Equality, which advocates for the rights of bi-national LGBT couples. In both cases, State Department officials refused to acknowledge legal same-sex relationships, denying those couples’ children US citizenship.
The whole mess began a decade ago, when Allison Blixt and her wife Stefania Zaccari met in New York. Zaccari is an Italian citizen, and the couple moved to Europe because they couldn’t marry in the United States back then. But they could marry in the United Kingdom, so they did — and then had a son in 2015 and another in 2017. Zaccari carried the first son, and Blixt the second.
Makes sense so far, right? As a legally married US citizen, Blixt wanted to get citizenship for her children. But the State Department refused, telling the women that only the baby born to Blixt was considered a US citizen. Even though both women are listed as parents on both children’s birth certificates, the State Department ruled that the kids would be treated as though they were born to an unmarried couple.
This isn’t an isolated incident. Almost exactly the same thing happened to a couple named Andrew and Elad Dvash-Banks. Andrew is an American, and sponsored Elad, an Israeli, for a US green card. They recently had twins, one using each man’s sperm, and that’s when the State Department decided to create a citizenship problem.
Just as with the two moms, the State Department gave citizenship to the son produced from Andrew’s genes, and forced the other baby to get a tourist visa in order to stay in the US with his family.
The State Department’s position is that a biological relation to a US citizen is needed to confer citizenship to a child. But that doesn’t seem to be true: Section 301(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act makes no mention of a biological connection. According to the law, children can get citizenship if one parent is a US citizen.
Instead, the State Department referred to section 309(c), which only requires a biological connection when children are born out of wedlock — which isn’t the case for either family. They’re both married couples.
Part of the problem here is that the State Department asked invasive questions about the parenting of the children. If a hetereosexual couple wanted to get citizenship for their kids, and both parents were listed on a birth certificate, there wouldn’t have been any issue getting citizenship. The State Department is only applying that policy to same-sex couples, and allowing the children of opposite-sex couples to sail through the process.
But instead, the same-sex parents were subjected to interrogation, DNA testing and ultimately rejection from their own country.
The lawsuit remains pending. In the meantime, at least one of the children remains in the United States but could be deported at any time.