US State Dept. Broader Recognition of Same-Sex Couples' Children

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday May 20, 2021

The U.S. State Department is now recognizing the children of American same-sex couples as citizens even if the kids do not have a genetic tie to their parents, the Huffington Post reports.

"Under the new policy, children born to same-sex or heterosexual couples abroad through in vitro fertilization, surrogacy or other reproductive technology will be recognized as U.S. citizens at birth as long as at least one of the parents is American," the report detailed.

The article explains the new policy is a reversal of an earlier stance in which the U.S. "did not recognize citizenship at birth for the babies of married couples living abroad if the baby wasn't related genetically, or by birth to, an American citizen in the couple."

The expansion falls short of recognizing the children of unmarried same-sex couples, though, unless there is a genetic or "gestational" tie.

Prior to the new policy, same-sex couples faced hurdles in obtaining citizenship recognition for their children that heterosexual couples did not, the Huffington Post noted.

"State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that the 'updated interpretation and application of the INA takes into account the realities of modern families and advances in [artificial reproductive technology] from when the Act was first enacted in 1952,'" per CNN's report.

As such, the policy reflects a contemporary understanding of family and an appropriate application of existing law and is not seen as a change in the law.

When the original law was passed, "considerations about reproductive technology, and thinking about the composition of modern families, was just not something that went into the thought making of people writing that law," said Price.

The update took place in the wake of a lawsuit filed by same-sex couples whose "children were denied birthright citizenship because they were considered 'born out of wedlock' and ineligible," despite the couple's marital status.

"The policy on assisted reproductive technology determined that 'a child born abroad to a surrogate, whose genetic parents are a U.S. citizen father and anonymous egg donor, is considered for citizenship purposes to be a person born out of wedlock,'" CNN explained.

Critics said that definition unfairly burdened same-sex couples.

According to Price, the update, announced May 18, was set to take immediate effect as well as be "retroactively applied to anyone who feels that they have a change in circumstance due to the change."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.