(CN) – A gay couple claims the United States government refuses to acknowledge their infant daughter’s U.S. citizenship even though they’re U.S. citizens.
The Georgia residents sued the federal government on behalf of their daughter Tuesday, claiming a policy amounts to “government-sponsored discrimination.”
According to their complaint filed in the Northern District of Georgia, Derek Mize and Jonathan Gregg, both 38, say the State Department will only evaluate their daughter Simone Mize-Gregg’s citizenship under the lens that she was “born out of wedlock” because they are a same-sex couple.
The two men were married in New York in 2015. A surrogate in England gave birth to Simone in 2018.
Simone’s U.K. birth certificate lists both men as her parents, who say Simone should be recognized as a U.S. citizen because her parents are U.S. citizens who are married. Mize was born and raised in the U.S. and Gregg was born in London to a married U.S. citizen, according to their complaint.
Despite all these qualifiers, the State Department applied two sets of more stringent requirements on the family, including labeling Simone as the child of an unmarried parent and the child of a noncitizen.
“In doing so, State Department officials failed to acknowledge the validity of Mr. Mize and Mr. Gregg’s marriage, deemed Simone to have been ‘born out of wedlock,’ and treated Mr. Mize as if he were not Simone’s father,” according to the complaint.
In their complaint, Mize and Gregg claim the State Department policy violates the Immigration and Nationalization Act, which rewrote U.S. immigration policy in place since the 1920s. The act undid a quota system and preference categories for reuniting families.
Mize and Gregg say the State Department routinely refuses to recognize the marriage of same-sex couples and classify their children as nonmarital children. They argue this would not have happened to a different-sex couple and their baby.
Instead, the couple says the State Department labeled Mize as an unwed person who fathered a child with a noncitizen. The department then determined Simone is not a U.S. citizen because her biological parent Gregg – a U.S. citizen – had not lived in the United States long enough before Simone’s birth to meet a five-year residency requirement, according to their complaint.
In a statement, Mize and Gregg said, “Becoming Simone’s fathers has been the greatest privilege of our lives. Her beautiful voice, her hugs, her toddling around the house – these are daily blessings in our home. We are filing this litigation today because, as her parents, we have a duty to protect our daughter.”
Their attorney Aaron Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality, said in a statement, “The fight for marriage equality is not over, and we will not stand down until the State Department changes its unlawful policy.”
Civil rights legal organization Lambda Legal also represents the family.
They want the court to declare that Simone has been a U.S. citizen since birth and order the State Department barred from discriminating against same-sex couples and their children.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services declined to comment on pending litigation.