Trump Administration Fights to Overturn Same-Sex Couple’s Toddler’s Birthright Citizenship

Citizenship in a dictionary, highlighted with pink.

In yet another attack against the rights of the LGBTQ community, the Trump administration is fighting to overturn the birthright citizenship of a toddler born to a same-sex couple, according to a release issued by Lambda Legal. Read on for the full story. 

Trump Administration Fights to Overturn Same-Sex Couple’s Toddler’s Birthright Citizenship

On Friday, August 14th, the U.S. State Department took steps to overturn the birthright citizenship of Kessem Kiviti, child of Roee and Adiel Kiviti, two legally-wed gay U.S. citizens. The State Department is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to reverse Maryland’s federal district court’s ruling. In their briefing, Lamba Legal writes, 

By appealing the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the government continues to refuse to recognize the validity of Roee and Adiel’s marriage and continues to defend its discriminatory policy, which conditions the recognition of birthright citizenship on a biological link to a U.S. citizen parent.  

Roee Kiviti expressed sadness that he and his husband have to continue this legal battle, but says they are undeterred. ”

We are doing this not just for our daughter and our family, but so that other families won’t have to. Our daughter likes to play with Legos, to dance until she falls, and to tickle her brother. That’s what we’re going to focus on.”  

Lambda Legal joins Immigration Equality and pro bono counsel Morgan Lewis in bringing the suit on behalf of the gay couple and their 18-month-old daughter . The Trump Administration has steadfastly refused to recognize Kessem’s citizenship since birth, despite the fact that both Roee and Adiel are U.S. citizens. 

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Trump Administration refuses to recognize toddler’s citizenship

The Trump Administration refused to recognize Kessem as a U.S. citizen since birth, even though both of her parents are U.S. citizens. Federal law dictates that any child born to two U.S. citizens is automatically a citizen. However, the State Department refuses to recognize her rights because she’s not “biologically related” to both of her fathers. Kessem was born in February, 2019 in Canada, via surrogacy. 

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan of Lambda Legal writes, 

“A federal court has already found the Department of State’s policy to be contrary to the law and to raise grave constitutional concerns. It is unconscionable, though not surprising, for this administration to further appeal a policy so clearly at odds with the law and that is harmful to LGBTQ families. We will continue to fight for the Kivitis’ right to be recognized as a family, and Kessem’s right to be recognized as a US citizen since birth.”

Aaron C. Morris of Immigration Equality adds, 

“Once again, the State Department is refusing to recognize Roee and Adiel’s rights as a married couple. The government’s attempts to strip Kessem of citizenship are unconstitutional, discriminatory, and morally reprehensible.” 

Trump’s State Department Justifies Actions by Using Law Never Meant for U.S. Citizens

The couple wed in California in 2013, ,and Kessem was born in Canada in February 2019.  According to Lamda Legal, 

Because only Adiel has a biological connection to Kessem, the State Department disregarded Roee and Adiel’s marriage and treated Kessem as “born out of wedlock,” meaning that they required her to have a biological relationship to a U.S. citizen parent who has resided in the U.S. for five years to automatically obtain her U.S. citizenship. This requirement is not meant to apply to the children of married U.S. citizens. 

As the briefing explains, the Immigration and Nationality Act states that all children born to abroad to married U.S. citizens are automatically granted citizenship themselves, provided one of their parents has, at some point, lived in the U.S. Despite the 2015 Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the entire country, the Trump-era State Department routinely denies that right to children of same-sex married couples. 

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. 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. 

The appeal follows on the heels of another hearing held earlier this month in Georgia for a similar lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal and Immigration Equality. In that case, the U.S. State Department refuses to recognize birthright citizenship status of two-year-old Simone Mize-Gregg, child of Derek Mize and Jonathan Gregg. Like Kessen, Simone was born abroad via surrogacy and isn’t related to both parents. 

 Learn more about Kiviti v. Pompeo case and the Simone Mize-Gregg case on Lambda Legal. 

What are your thoughts on the Trump administration’s efforts to strip children of same-sex couples of their birthright citizenship rights? Share below.