ATLANTA, GA, July 23, 2019—Today, Immigration Equality, Lambda Legal, and pro bono counsel Morgan Lewis filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against the U.S. State Department for refusing to recognize the citizenship of Simone Mize-Gregg, the daughter of U.S. citizens Derek Mize and Jonathan Gregg. The State Department’s policy treats married same-sex couples as if their marriages did not exist, unconstitutionally stripping their children born abroad of their rightful U.S. citizenship.
“The State Department’s policy is not only cruel, it is unconstitutional. The government refuses to recognize Jonathan and Derek’s marriage and all of Simone’s rights as a U.S. citizen,” said Aaron C. Morris, Executive Director of Immigration Equality and one of the couples’ attorneys. “The fight for marriage equality is not over, and we will not stand down until the State Department changes its unlawful policy.”
Derek Mize and Jonathan Gregg are a same-sex couple who married in New York in 2015. They had their daughter Simone via surrogacy in England, in 2018 and both fathers are listed on her birth certificate. When they applied for recognition of her U.S. citizenship, the U.S. consulate in London rejected their application. Because only one of Simone’s fathers has a biological connection to her, the State Department is disregarding Jonathan and Derek’s marriage and is treating Simone as though she was born out of wedlock, a classification which requires more stringent requirements for recognition of her citizenship. Read more about the Mize-Gregg family here.
“Simone was born to two dads, who lovingly and intentionally brought her into the world, and their family is entitled to equal respect from the federal government,” said Karen Loewy, Senior Counsel for Lambda Legal and one of the family’s attorneys. “The Supreme Court has been clear that married same-sex couples cannot be denied the same protections that different-sex couples receive, and that includes the right to be recognized as their children’s parents regardless of who has a biological connection to a child. The State Department has no business refusing to recognize Simone as an American citizen just like her parents. We will not allow this State Department to treat LGBT families like second-class citizens.”
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The Immigration and Nationality Act states that children of married U.S. citizens born abroad are U.S. citizens from birth so long as one of their parents has lived in the U.S. at some point, but the State Department routinely denies that right to same-sex couples and their children. While different-sex couples are automatically presumed to both be parents of their children, same-sex couples are subjected to invasive questioning about how they brought their child into their family, and because one parent is not a biological parent, they are treated as if they are not married, and their children are not recognized as citizens unless the biological parent can meet additional criteria.
Plaintiffs Derek Mize and Jonathan 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.”
Lambda Legal and Immigration Equality launched a joint petition today at lambdalegal.org/family where individuals can add their names to call on the State Department to change their discriminatory policy.
Immigration Equality is the nation’s leading LGBTQ immigrant rights organization. We represent and advocate for people from around the world fleeing violence, abuse, and persecution because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status.
Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.