State Department Removes Policy Barring Citizenship to Kids of Same-Sex Couples

ASHLI SHAPIRO/ IMMIGRATION EQUALITY

The State Department has finally scrapped a policy that barred citizenships rights for the children of some binational same-sex partners.

The department announced children with at least one American parent can now receive US citizenship regardless of whether or not they have a biological relationship with the child. Previously, the policy insisted that children would only get birthright citizenship rights if the parent biologically related to them is a US citizen. That created barriers for children who were biologically related to a parent without US citizenship.

The now-nixed policy, which was enforced by the Trump administration and the Obama administration before that, conflicted with the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which stipulates that children should be American citizens if one of their parents is an American citizen. It also violated marriage laws because it considered children of same-sex couples to be born out of wedlock.

The State Department faced numerous legal battles from families impacted by the policies — and courts frequently sided with the families.

“Recognizing the advances in assisted reproductive technology (ART), the State Department is updating our interpretation and application of Section 301 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which establishes the requirements for acquisition of U.S. citizenship at birth,” the State Department said in a press release. “This change will allow increased numbers of married couples to transmit US Citizenship to their children born overseas, while continuing to follow the citizenship transmission requirements established in the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act). Requirements for children born to unmarried parents remain unchanged.”

In a statement, Immigration Equality, an LGBTQ-focused immigrant advocacy group, applauded the department’s change.

“This is a remarkable moment for all the LGBTQ families who fought the U.S. State Department’s unconstitutional policy,”  Aaron Morris, the executive director of Immigration Equality, said in a written statement. “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.”

Up until the policy was changed, US citizen Allison Blixt and Stefania Zaccari, an Italian citizen, had a pending lawsuit against the State Department for declining birthright citizenship to their child, Lucas Blixt-Zaccari. Their son was not eligible for US birthright citizenship because he was carried by his mother, Stefania, who is not a US citizen.

“We are relieved and thankful that our fight for our family to be recognized by the government has finally ended,” Blixt said in a written statement. “We knew we would succeed eventually, as trailblazers before us fought and won marriage equality.”

Blixt added, “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.

Immigration Equality blasted the policy as biased against same-sex married couples, saying it “deprives same-sex married couples of the fundamental rights and attributes of marriage.”

Some binational LGBTQ couples have achieved citizenship for their children despite this policy. Two years ago, a federal court in the Central District of California granted birthright citizenship to a child of a gay married couple, Israeli citizen Elad Dvash-Banks and American citizen Andrew Dvash-Banks, The pair married in Canada in 2010 and went on to have two kids through surrogacy in 2016 before they moved to California. When the State Department under Rex Tillerson challenged the citizenship of one of their kids, a federal court again ruled in favor of the family and the State Department subsequently dropped their appeal of the case.

To sign up for the Gay City News email newsletter, visit gaycitynews.com/newsletter

More from Around NYC