State Department Ends Policy that Denied Citizenship to Children of Same-Sex Couples

May 19, 2021

The U.S. State Department has announced a new policy that will grant U.S. citizenship to the children of many married same-sex couples. The State Department's prior policy required that both parents must be biologically related to a child born abroad in order for that child to be recognized as a U.S. citizen at birth. This policy put numerous American families into legal limbo, with parents uncertain if their children would grow up enjoying the same rights and protections as the children of other families.
Sullivan & Cromwell has been working with the nonprofit Immigration Equality to fight for the rights of LGBT parents who were harmed by the State Department's policy and to secure recognition of birthright citizenship for their children. In October 2020, they secured a significant appellate victory affirming the citizenship of one of their client families victimized by this policy, the Dvash-Bankses. After S&C and Immigration Equality filed two federal lawsuits on January 22, 2018, one on behalf of the Dvash-Banks family and one on behalf of the Zaccari-Blixt family, other LGBT families in the same situation came forward to seek recognition of their child's U.S. citizenship through the courts. Many of these cases have been resolved, all in favor of the families, but the Zaccari-Blixt family was among those still pending at the time of this decision. The State Department's reversal of its policy will apply retroactively, allowing any child previously denied proof of citizenship to obtain it.
Ted Edelman and Jessica Klein have led the effort on this matter at S&C, with support from lawyers in each of the Firm's U.S. offices.