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U.S. revises policy that denied citizenship to children of gay couples

Some children born abroad to married same-sex couples had been denied U.S. citizenship if they didn’t have a biological tie to one parent. 
Image: Elad Dvash-Banks, Andrew Dvash-Banks, Ethan Dvash-Banks
Elad Dvash-Banks, left, and his husband, Andrew, with their twin sons, Ethan and Aiden, on Jan. 23, 2018, in Los Angeles. Ethan was initially denied U.S. citizenship. Jae C. Hong / AP file

The United States has ended a policy that denied U.S. citizenship to some children born abroad to gay Americans.

The State Department announced Tuesday that children born outside the United States to married parents, at least one of whom is an American citizen, “will be U.S. citizens from birth if they have a genetic or gestational tie to at least one of their parents.” Previously, the department required children born abroad to have a biological tie to a U.S. citizen. 

For example, under the previous policy, a child born in Mexico to an American woman and her Mexican wife could be denied U.S. citizenship if the child had no biological tie to the American, even if the two women were legally married in the U.S. before the child was born. 

The State Department said its updated interpretation and application of the Immigration and Nationality Act “takes into account the realities of modern families” and advances in assisted reproductive technology, or ART.

Immigration Equality, an LGBTQ immigrant rights organization, filed several lawsuits against the State Department on behalf of same-sex married couples whose children were denied American citizenship, despite one parent being a U.S. citizen. The group’s executive director, Aaron Morris, called this week’s policy change “a remarkable moment for all the LGBTQ families who fought the U.S. State Department’s unconstitutional policy.”

“It demonstrates that when our community is united, and relentlessly pushes back against discrimination, we win,” Morris said in a statement Tuesday. “We have once again affirmed that it is not biology but love that makes a family.”   

Immigration Equality said all of the children of the couples they represented eventually won U.S. citizenship, except for one: U.S. citizen Allison Blixt and Italian citizen Stefania Zaccari, whose case is still pending. Tuesday’s announcement came as welcome news to Blixt and Zaccari, whose son, Lucas, is awaiting an American passport. 

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

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