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Binational Same-Sex Couples Sue State Department for Unequal Treatment

Families in lawsuit

From left: Allison Blixt and Stefania Zaccari, and Andrew and Elad Dvash-Banks with their sons

Immigration Equality today filed two lawsuits against the U.S. State Department on behalf of two same-sex couples whose children were denied birthright citizenship.

The couples are Allison Blixt and Stefalia Zaccari, and Andrew and Elad Dvash-Banks. Blixt, an American citizen, and Zaccari, an Italian, live in London. The women have two sons, Lucas and Massi, conceived using their own eggs, and sperm from an unknown donor. Zaccari carried Lucas and gave birth to him, and Blixt carried Massi and gave birth. Both women are listed as mothers on the children’s birth certificates, and are the only parents recognized by British law.

Both children qualified for U.S. citizenship under the Immigration and Nationality Act, according to Immigration Equality, as they are the legal offspring of a U.S. citizen. However, the State Department, through the U.S. Embassy in London, affirmed Massi’s citizenship but not Lucas’s, as Lucas does not have a biological relationship to a U.S. citizen, according to the suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The Dvash-Bankses had a similar experience. Andrew is a U.S. citizen, and Elad is an Israeli citizen. They married in Canada and now live in Los Angeles. After their marriage, they became fathers to twin sons, one conceived with Andrew’s sperm and one with Elads, using eggs from the same donor, who then carried both children and gave birth to them moments apart in Canada. Their children also qualify for U.S. citizenship, but the State Department has ruled that Aiden, the child conceived with Andew’s sperm, is a U.S. citizen, but his brother, Ethan, conceived with Elad’s sperm, is not. Their suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Both couples’ children qualify for birthright citizenship under a provision of the law that entitles children born abroad to such citizenship if one of their married parents is a U.S. citizen and the other a foreign national, according to Immigration Equality. That provision says nothing about a biological relationship. But Immigration Equality says the State Department wrongly failed to recognize the couples’ marriages and treated their children as if they were born out of wedlock.

“The government is treating same-sex couples as if they were not married,” said Aaron C. Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality and the couples’ attorney, on a conference call with reporters this morning. This treatment defies Supreme Court rulings stating that same-sex married couples must have access to the same rights and benefits available to opposite-sex married couples, the lawsuits note.

Not having citizenship deprives a person of many rights and privileges, including the right to reside permanently in the U.S., the right to obtain a U.S. passport, and the right to run for political office, according to the suits. The suits ask the respective courts to declare the birth citizenship of the children affected.

Watch a video about the families below.

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