NEW ORLEANS — Yesterday the ACLU Foundation of Louisiana filed a "friend-of-the-court" Amicus Brief in the case Vo v. Gee, challenging a state law that denies marriage licenses to foreign-born residents because of their inability to produce a birth certificate.
Current marriage law in Louisiana does not allow foreign-born people to petition for a waiver of the birth certificate requirement, even if they can prove their lawful citizenship. Only those born outside the United States are denied the chance for a waiver.
Viet Anh Vo, born in an Indonesian refugee camp to parents who had fled Vietnam, has been a U.S. citizen since he was 8 years old, but has no birth certificate due to the circumstances of his birth. When Vo and his fiancée filed for a marriage license in early 2016, their application was rejected by three separate parish clerks simply because he lacks a birth certificate.
"This law denies the fundamental right to marry based solely on the circumstances of birth," said Marjorie R. Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. "There is simply no legitimate reason to deny anyone the benefits of marriage simply for lack of a document unrelated to marriage itself. If Louisiana wants to encourage marriage, this law does not serve that purpose."
The law was passed in 2015, ostensibly to deter "marriage fraud," which has never been shown to be a problem in Louisiana. "Preventing someone like Mr. Vo, who is a U.S. citizen, from marrying does nothing but undermine confidence in the marriage process," Esman continued. "We cannot punish someone for circumstances beyond his control by denying him access to something we value."
Vo is seeking to have the law overturned and to receive the marriage license he deserves. He is represented by attorneys from New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, the National Immigration Law Center, and the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.