Twins Were Born Minutes Apart, but Only One Is an American Citizen

Alene Tchekmedyian, Pittsbuirgh Gazette, January 30, 2018Alene Tchekmedyian, Pittsbuirgh Gazette, January 30, 2018

The two envelopes, one for each twin brother, arrived in the mailbox on the same day in March of last year.

The larger parcel, for Aiden Dvash-Banks, contained a new U.S. passport and a letter congratulating the boy on his American citizenship. A smaller, flimsier envelope came for Ethan Dvash-Banks. Inside, a letter stated that his citizenship application had been denied.

The boys were carried in the same womb and born 16 months ago in Canada, minutes apart. But now, only one of them is in the U.S. legally.

The disparity is at the crux of a lawsuit filed last week against the State Department in which the twins’ parents, a married binational gay couple, allege that the government’s policy of granting birthright citizenship to children born abroad based on blood relation discriminates against LGBT couples.

Aiden and Ethan were conceived using an anonymous donor’s eggs and the sperm of their fathers, Andrew and Elad Dvash-Banks. The twins were carried and delivered by a surrogate. Aiden shares DNA with Andrew, a Santa Monica native, while Ethan is biologically related to Elad, who was born and raised in Israel.

In Ethan’s denial letter, addressed to Andrew, a U.S. Consulate official said the Immigration and Nationality Act requires “a blood relationship between a child and the U.S. citizen parent in order for the parent to transmit U.S. citizenship.”

The boy’s “claim to U.S. citizenship has not been satisfactorily established, as you are not his biological father,” the letter said.

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The family’s case exposes the unique immigration challenges facing binational LGBT couples, which number about 36,000 in the U.S., said Jackie Yodashkin, public affairs director for Immigration Equality.

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But Nancy Polikoff, a visiting professor at School of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles, said straight couples who use assisted reproduction abroad run into similar problems.

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