Yet another same-sex couple is suing the Trump administration for denying citizenship to their child.
Roee and Adiel Kiviti are suing the White House after their daughter, Kessem, was treated as a child “born out of wedlock” because she doesn’t have a biological connection to Roee. According to the State Department, their daughter must be biologically related to a United States citizen who has lived in the country for five years, and Adiel is a year away from meeting that threshold.
Kessem was born in Canada this February through the use of a surrogate, and this decision could jeopardize her ability to remain in the U.S. with her parents.
In a statement, the couple claims the State Department’s policies unlawfully discriminate against their newborn daughter, arguing that Kessem’s “rights are being infringed upon by our government.”
“Every parent wants to protect their child, to give them assurances of tomorrow, and this policy isn’t letting us do that,” Roee and Adiel said. “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 case is being pursued by the legal advocacy group Immigration Equality, which filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Maryland on Thursday. The New York City-based organization says the wedlock policy is based on a misreading of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which is being used to target LGBTQ+ people. The White House claims the 54-year-old law mandates that any “child born abroad [must] be biologically related to a U.S. citizen parent.”
Immigration Equality has called that reading “strained.” In a statement, its executive director, Aaron C. Morris, adds that this case is “a fight for marriage equality.”
“It is a fight for the fundamental right of citizenship,” Morris argued. “By refusing to recognize their rights as a married couple, the State Department is treating Roee and Adiel as second-class citizens and treating Kessem as if she is not a citizen at all. The administration has made abundantly clear it will ignore the law and Constitution. We will not stand for it.”
Roee and Adiel is one of several lawsuits Immigration Equality has filed against the administration’s refusal of citizenship rights to the children of same-sex couples. There are at least three more pending in the courts: Alison and Stefania Zaccari-Blixt, Derek Mize and Jonathan Gregg, and Andrew and Elad Dvash-Banks.
Immigration Equality is being joined in pursuing justice for Roee and Adiel by the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Lambda Legal and the law firm Morgan Lewis, which is acting as pro bono counsel.
In a statement, Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan calls the White House’s treatment of same-sex couples “cruel and un-American.”
“Kessem was born to two dads,” he said. “By refusing to recognize Kessem as a U.S. citizen at birth, the Department of State seeks to erase her family ties and to disrespect Roee’s and Adiel’s marriage. … 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.”