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Morgan Lewis Pro Bono Team Wins Citizenship for Children of Same-Sex Parents

October 27, 2020

A Morgan Lewis team led by senior pro bono trial attorney Susan Baker Manning and intellectual property partner John Polito won a pair of critical court rulings validating the US citizenship of children born abroad to married same-sex couples. The rulings, decided in spring and summer 2020, have helped the couples and their children enjoy the same rights as other citizens, giving them peace of mind and the assurance that they can remain together as a family in the United States.

In each case, the child was born to a surrogate mother outside of the country, and was biologically related to one of their two fathers, both of whom were US citizens. However, the US Department of State denied passports to both newborns, contending they were born “out of wedlock,” under the theory that a child must have a biological relationship with both married parents to secure automatic birthright citizenship. This theory excludes all children of same-sex couples unless they meet the heightened citizenship standards that apply to children born to unmarried couples.

In both Kiviti v. Pompeo and Mize v. Pompeo, our team worked with nonprofit organizations Lambda Legal and Immigration Equality to secure federal court rulings requiring the US government to recognize the children’s citizenship and issue passports to the youngsters. In October, under the Acting Solicitor General’s direction, the US Department of Justice withdrew the appeal of the Kiviti case that was already pending before the 4th Circuit, and let its deadline to appeal the Mize case to the 11th Circuit pass without filing anything. As a result, both children have definitive rulings that they are US citizens and newly-issued US passports.

The news media has closely followed the legal battles surrounding these cases, including prominent articles featuring the firm’s work in Above the Law, Law360, Advocate, and CNN.

Morgan Lewis’s involvement in the case is an extension of the firm’s longstanding commitment to representing marginalized clients, particularly in matters concerning children and immigration. On a podcast discussing his family’s case and the help Morgan Lewis provided, Derek Mize said simply of Susan, “She’s our angel.”