State Department Sued for Discriminating Against Married Same-Sex Couples and Their Children

Christianna Silva

The former U.S. ban on same-sex marriage has made citizenship for the children of same-sex bi-national couples difficult,—and it’s led two couples to sue the U.S. government.

Immigration Equality, an LGBT immigrant legal advocacy group, and Sullivan & Cromwell LLP filed two lawsuits on Monday against the State Department on behalf of LGBT parents and their children.

“The State Department is refusing to acknowledge the citizenship of children whose parents are same-sex married couples. This policy is not only illegal, it is unconstitutional,” Aaron C. Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality and the couples’ attorney said in a statement. “This action by the State Department disenfranchises children born to bi-national same-sex parents and places an undue burden on their families.”

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U.S.-citizen Allison Blixt met her Italian wife Stefania Zaccari while the latter was on vacation in New York. After over a year of long distance from Rome to New York, they decided to move to London because same-sex marriage wasn’t legal in the U.S at the time. And since Blixt and Zaccari couldn’t get married, it was more difficult for Zaccari to get a green card or citizenship. In July 2009, the two got married in the U.K, and Zaccari gave birth to their son Lucas in January 2015. Two years later, Blixt gave birth to their son Massi. They went to the embassy to get citizenship for their children, when they were told it wasn’t an option for Lucas. 

“We were in the embassy and I had tears running down my face when she said ‘you can’t have citizenship’ because it felt like we were just going back to where we were before,” Blixt told Newsweek. “We aren't treated the same.”

Zixt family

U.S.-citizen Allison Blixt married her Italian wife Stefania Zaccari. When they wanted to get citizenship for her children, they were told it wasn't an option for their son, Lucas. Courtesy of Immigration Equality/ Allison Hinman Photography

The State Department treated the boys as if they were born out of wedlock, according to Immigration Equality. They refused to recognize that Lucas was a citizen because, even though Blixt and Zaccari are both on his birth certificate, Zaccari was pregnant with him. Blixt was pregnant with Massi, so he has citizenship.

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A similar situation happened to Andrew Dvash-Banks and his husband Elad Dvash-Banks. They met in Israel while Andrew Dvash-Banks, a U.S. citizen, was studying. They had to move to Canada, even though they wanted to live in California.

After same-sex marriage was legalized, Andrew Dvash-Banks sponsored Elad Dvash-Banks, an Israeli citizen, for a green card while they were also working through surrogacy. The Israeli citizen got his green card, and the couple had twin boys. One twin was recognized as a U.S. citizen and the other is living in the U.S. on a tourist visa, because the clinic used Andrew Dvash-Bank's sperm for one of his sons, and Elad’s sperm for their other son.

recent family photo 2 (1)

Aiden, Elad, Andrew, and Ethan Courtesy of Immigration Equality/Images of Life by Ashli Shapiro

“I want to tell both my children they can be president,” Elad Dvash-Banks told Newsweek.

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“I can look at Aiden and say ‘you can be anything you want to be in the world my love,’” Andrew Dvash-Banks told Newsweek. “And I look to Ethan and say, ‘You can be anything you want to be in the world, except the president. And a few other things.’”

The State Department did not comment to Newsweek

Morris hopes these cases will establish some case law they can use in the future, because cases like this “happen every single time” a same-sex couple is put in this situation.

“Both parents are the only legitimate parents these kids have ever known,” Morris told Newsweek. “They’re on the birth certificate since day one. There’s no reason to require this extra hurdle to them that isn’t being used in any other cases.”

This article was first written by Newsweek

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