US court backs same-sex couple with Israeli roots in citizenship battle for baby daughter


(JTA) — A federal court in Maryland ordered the State Department to recognize the U.S. citizenship of the Jewish daughter of a gay couple born via surrogacy abroad.

Roee and Adiel Kiviti, who were married in 2013 in California, have been fighting to obtain citizenship for Kessem since she was born more than a year ago.

Roee is an Israel native and grew up in Southern California. He became a U.S. citizen in 1993. Adiel was born in Israel and became a U.S. citizen in January 2019. He fell one year short of meeting the five-year residency requirement to transfer citizenship when Kessem was born.

Because Kessem’s biological relationship is to Adiel, the baby was not able to automatically obtain citizenship. The State Department disregarded Roee and Adiel’s marriage and treated Kessem as “born out of wedlock,” according to Immigration Equality, which helped the family bring the lawsuit. Lambda Legal and pro bono counsel Morgan Lewis also worked on behalf of the Kivitis.

“Yet another federal court agrees with us that a biological connection is not required for married U.S. citizen parents to pass on citizenship to their children,” Aaron Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality and co-counsel for the family, said in a statement issued Wednesday. “This just makes sense. It’s love that makes a family, not biology.”

The couple have a son, Lev, who was born in Canada in 2016 through surrogacy and has been recognized as a U.S. citizen since birth.

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