WASHINGTON (CN) – A gay married couple filed a federal lawsuit Thursday over the State Department’s refusal to recognize the citizenship of their daughter, claiming the government unfairly treats the children of same-sex couples as if they were born out of wedlock.
In a 22-page complaint filed in Maryland federal court, Roee and Adiel Kiviti are challenging a State Department policy that stipulates a child must have a biological relationship with both parents who have lived in the country for five years in order to be granted citizenship.
Adiel Kiviti, 40, whose sperm fertilized a donor egg to conceive their daughter Kessem, falls one year short of this five-year stipulation. The State Department also completely rejects Roee, 41, as Kessem’s parent, as he did not biologically contribute to her conception, according to the lawsuit.
“The State Department’s policy of requiring a ‘biological’ relationship between a child and both of his or her married parents misclassifies children born to married same-sex couples as ‘born out of wedlock,’” the complaint states. “The State Department thus disregards the parents’ valid marriages, ignores the legal and parental rights of non-biological parents, demeans the relationship between the child and his or her non-biological parent, and destabilizes families. It also disenfranchises U.S. citizen children of birthright citizenship.”
The Kivitis point to the landmark Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down state bans on same-sex marriages, as one example of the court system’s enforcement of gay couples’ rights to equal protection and due process.
“Same-sex spouses and their children are also equally protected in their rights to family privacy, integrity, and association. Decisions about whether and how to bring children into a family, choices about how to raise them, and the right to secure parent-child relationships are fundamental and constitutionally protected,” the lawsuit states.
In a statement issued Thursday, the Kivitis said the focus of the case is their daughter, whose rights are being infringed upon by the government.
“Every parent wants to protect their child, to give them assurances of tomorrow, and this policy isn’t letting us do that. Our daughter will know her story. She will know how she came into this world, she will know about all of the loving people who helped us become a family, and she will know how her parents fought for her rights and for the rights of other families,” the couple said.
The couple is represented by attorneys from Morgan Lewis, Immigration Equality and Lambda Legal.
Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a senior attorney at Lambda Legal, said in a statement Thursday the U.S. State Department is looking to erase family ties between the fathers and their daughter. He called the policy also unconstitutional and un-American.
“The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that same-sex couples are entitled to the same constellation of benefits linked to marriage as different-sex couples. The government cannot refuse to recognize Roee’s and Adiel’s marriage, nor Kessem’s citizenship at birth. We will fight for the dignity of all LGBT families,” he said.
The Department of Justice did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.
A similar lawsuit was filed by a Georgia couple in July.
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