June 6, 2019 at 3:43 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
99 Dems urge State Dept. to recognize citizenship of LGBT couple’s child
From left: Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) are leading a group of senators in urging the Trump administration to recognize the citizenship of an LGBT couple’s child. (Washington Blade file photos by Michael Key)

A group of 99 congressional Democrats — 80 in the U.S. House, 19 in the U.S. Senate — are calling on the Trump administration to reverse its policy of refusing to recognize the birthright citizenship of children to LGBT families born overseas via surrogacy methods.

The call come in the form of a pair of letters. Leading the letter in the House is Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and the co-chairs of the LGBT Equality Caucus, each of an openly LGB member of Congress, including Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the most senior openly gay member of the U.S. House. In the Senate, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) are leading the charge.

Both letters are dated June 6 and addressed to a Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The House says the Trump administration policy is “discriminatory and cruel”; the Senate calls it “extraordinary and deeply disturbing.”

“Even in the face of the mounting hardship the policy has created for loving families, your department has gone to great lengths to continue to defend a policy in federal court that separates American families before they reach the U.S. border edge,” the Senate letter says.

The Senate letter refers to the case of Andrew and Elad Dvash-Banks, a married same-sex couple — one an American citizen, and one an Israeli national — who had twin sons through a gestational surrogate in Canada.

The State Department, however, required a DNA test to prove the children were related to the couple to provide them U.S. passports. One child, Aiden, was deemed a citizen because he’s the biological son of Andrew, but the other, Ethan, wasn’t because he’s the biological son of Elad.

The Trump administration continues to refuse to recognize the citizenship of Elad despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision 2015 decision in favor marriage equality nationwide, which guarantees all the “constellation of benefits” of marriage to same-sex couples.

In a case against the Trump administration filed by Immigration Equality on the basis that the policy violates the Immigration & Nationality. A federal court ruled against the State Department, but the Trump administration has appealed the decision to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

According to the Senate letter, the policy against the couple “is not an isolated case” and addition couples have come forward with similar stories.

“Stories after stories have recently been chronicled of same-sex couples being told by your department that their marriages are, by definition, invalid, and that any children they may have abroad risk becoming stateless,” the letter says. “Every new American parent should focus on celebrating the birth of a child, not be consumed with fear that all members of their family may not be welcomed back home to the United States.”

Both letters call on the Trump administration to change the policy. The Senate letter specifically calls on the Trump administration to “immediately drop” the appeal of the Dvash-Banks case and “make it clear that every U.S. married couple is entitled to the same rights under the U.S. Constitution, no matter whom they love.”

A State Department spokesperson declined to comment in response to the senators’ letter.

“We generally do not comment on our communications with Congress,” the spokesperson said. “Due to ongoing litigation, we have no further comment at this time.”

Joining Merkley and Harris in signing the letter was Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.).


Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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