Gay Couple Fights for Daughter’s Citizenship

Both dads are American — but because their daughter was born abroad, this gay couple now has to fight for her to be a citizen.

They're both American, their daughter isn't.

This gay couple is in an unexpected fight for their daughter to be an American citizen through brave activism. James was born and raised in the U.S. while Jonathan was born in Britain to an American mother. Simone was born in the U.K. — with a close friend of Jonathan's serving as the surrogate. Their case illustrates the latest complication facing some families who use assisted reproductive technology, like surrogacy and in vitro fertilization, to have children. For years the techniques have set off provocative legal and ethical debates about what defines parenthood. Immigration and citizenship are the latest frontier in those debates to fight for your rights.

Nine months after Simone’s birth, the couple went to the U.S. embassy to get her a passport. But the U.S. State Department denied their daughter’s citizenship. According to the U.S State Department, a child born abroad must be biologically connected to an American parent to receive citizenship at birth based on U.S. State Department data. The State Department also classifies some children born through assisted reproductive technology as “out of wedlock,” even if the parents are legally married. At the crux of the issue is a State Department policy, based on immigration law, that requires a child born abroad to have a biological connection to an American parent in order to receive citizenship at birth. That is generally not a problem when couples have babies the traditional way but can prove tricky when only one spouse is the genetic parent.

The policy has come under intense scrutiny in recent months amid immigration lawsuits arguing that the State Department discriminates against same-sex couples and their children by failing to recognize their marriages. Under the policy, the department classifies certain children born through assisted reproductive technology as “out of wedlock,” which triggers a higher bar for citizenship, even if the parents are legally married. James and Jonathan are not alone. Other binational gay couples have been denied a passport for their kids. In February 2019, a U.S. District Judge from California stated that a biological connection wasn’t necessary for the child of binational parents to get birthright citizenship and the department is appealing.