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Louisiana ordered to pay legal fees over blocked law that kept refugee from marrying

The law blocked Viet Anh Vo, who was born in a refugee camp, from getting a marriage license because he couldn’t produce a birth certificate.

/ Source: Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge Wednesday ordered the state of Louisiana to pay more than $150,000 in fees and costs to attorneys for a man who successfully challenged a law that prevented him and other foreign-born U.S. citizens from getting married.

U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle’s order comes more than six months after he permanently blocked the marriage law.

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Lawyers who represented Lafayette resident Viet Anh Vo had asked for nearly $213,000 in fees and more than $11,267 in costs. Lemelle awarded them $144,614 in fees and $10,140 in costs.

The Indonesia-born Vo sued in 2016 after he and his U.S.-born fiancée had their application for a marriage license rejected by court clerks in three parishes. The law blocked Vo from getting a license because he couldn’t produce a birth certificate.

Vo was born in an Indonesian refugee camp after his parents fled Vietnam. Neither country’s government recognized his birth. Vo has lived in Louisiana since he was 3 months old and became a U.S. citizen when he was 8.

Vo and his fiancée, Heather Pham, spent thousands of dollars and invited 350 guests to their wedding in February 2016 before their application for a marriage license was rejected by court clerks in Iberia, Vermilion and Lafayette parishes. The couple went ahead with the ceremony, but couldn’t make their marriage official until Lemelle ruled in their favor.

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