A federal court in Georgia has ordered the Trump administration to recognize the U.S. citizenship of a gay couple’s two-year-old daughter and issue her a U.S. passport that she was previously denied.
U.S. District Judge Michael L. Brown, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, ruled that the U.S. State Department violated the federal Immigration and Nationality Act when it denied Simone Mize-Gregg, a child born via surrogacy in England, a passport because of its refusal to recognize the marriage of her two fathers, Derek Mize and Jonathan Gregg, as legally valid.
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, children of married U.S. citizens who are born abroad are supposed to be considered U.S. citizens from birth, as long as one of their parents has lived in the U.S. at some point.
But the State Department has been routinely refusing to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples, often subjecting them to invasive questioning about how their children were conceived and their parentage, and treating their children as “born out of wedlock.”
As such, the children are treated as immigrants and must meet additional, more stringent criteria before having their citizenship recognized.
But Brown, in his opinion, rejected the government’s premise that Mize-Gregg family has no legal standing due to Simone’s having been naturalized, writing that her naturalization “does not erase Plaintiffs’ alleged stigmatic injury.”
“We are so relieved that the court has recognized our daughter, Simone, as the U.S. citizen she has been since the day she was born, Derek Mize said in a statement on behalf of his family. “When we brought Simone into this world, as married, same-sex parents, we never anticipated our own government would disrespect our family and refuse to recognize our daughter as a U.S. citizen.
“As a result of the State Department’s discriminatory actions, we have undertaken a long journey to have our daughter recognized as a U.S. citizen,” he added. “But today, that journey is complete, and we are overcome with gratitude, for our lawyers and for the Court, for recognizing us as a family that is simply trying to give our daughter the best possible start, which all children deserve.”
Lawyers for the Mize-Gregg family, with Lambda Legal and Immigration Equality, celebrated the ruling as a “resounding victory for LGBTQ families.”
“The court has declared baby Simone, the marital child of Derek and Jonny, to be a U.S. citizen since birth and ordered the State Department to issue her a U.S. passport. We are very pleased the court found that the agency’s policy was irreconcilable with the law and our Constitution’s guarantee to equality because it treated the children of married, same-sex parents differently from the children of other married parents,” Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, senior counsel and health care strategist at Lambda Legal, said in a statement.
“It is time for the federal government to stop defending this unlawful and unconstitutional policy,” he added. “No family should have to face the fear and uncertainty of having their child’s citizenship status be held in limbo.”
The Mize-Gregg family’s case is the third such case, and the second this year, to challenge the State Department’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages. In June, a federal judge in Maryland also ruled against the State Department, finding it had discriminated against another same-sex couple, Adiel and Roee Kiviti, whose daughter, Kessem, was also conceived abroad via surrogacy. Last year, a federal judge in California ruled that the State Department had to recognize the citizenship of the twin sons of a gay couple, Andrew and Elad Dvash-Banks, as U.S. citizens.
“We celebrate the court’s decision, which acknowledges what has been true since the day she was born: Simone Mize-Gregg is a citizen of the United States,” Aaron Morris, the executive director of Immigration Equality, said in a statement.
“Family means more than biology alone. The State Department should change its discriminatory and unconstitutional policy immediately before it hurts another family.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated to clarify that the ruling in favor of the Mize-Gregg family was the third such instance overall, but the second in 2020, finding the State Department’s policy violates the law.
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