Court Upholds Marriage Equality in Louisiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 8, 2017

CONTACT
Elizabeth Beresford, NILC, elizabeth@elizabethbberesford.com, 917-648-0189
Stephen Boykewich, NOWCRJ, stephen@guestworkeralliance.org, 323-673-1307

Court Upholds Marriage Equality in Louisiana

Ruling permanently blocks state law that denies immigrants the right to marry

NEW ORLEANS — A federal district court today issued a powerful rebuke against anti-immigrant discrimination in Louisiana, issuing a permanent injunction against a state law that denies marriage equality to foreign-born Louisianans.

Viet “Victor” Anh Vo filed the lawsuit, Vo v. Gee, et al., in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in October 2016 after he and his fiancée were prevented from obtaining a marriage license in multiple Louisiana parishes. They were blocked by an unconstitutional state law that requires any foreign-born person to present a certified birth certificate to obtain a marriage license. U.S.-born applicants can obtain a waiver of that requirement, but foreign-born persons cannot.

The order for summary judgment issued by the court today says, “The unconstitutionality of Act 436 applies to all residents of the State of Louisiana, not just Mr. Vo.”

Vo said, “I am thrilled that I will finally be able to marry my partner of more than 10 years in my Louisiana hometown. And I’m proud that because of our efforts, no one in Louisiana will be denied the right to marry the person they love because of the place they were born.”

Vo, 32, is a U.S. citizen and has been a resident of Louisiana since he was three months old. He was never issued an official birth certificate because he was born in a refugee camp in Indonesia after his parents fled Vietnam. His fiancée is also a U.S. citizen and lifelong Louisiana resident.

Vo was represented pro bono by the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (NOWCRJ), and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom LLP.

“To be able to marry the person you love is a fundamental right in this country no matter where you come from and where you live. Today, the court has again strongly rebuked any attempt to undermine that right. The freedom to marry is the law of the land,” said NILC staff attorney Alvaro Huerta.

NOCWRJ Staff Attorney Mary Yanik said, “This law came from the politics of hatred and discrimination, and that’s not what Louisiana stands for. The decision today reflects Louisiana’s proudest legacy, as the birthplace of movements for human and civil rights.”

Skadden attorney Marley Ann Brumme said, “We are thrilled with the Court’s decision to permanently extend the protections provided by its earlier ruling. Mr. Vo can finally marry his partner in their home state of Louisiana without the burden of unconstitutional requirements imposed solely because of the place of his birth, and we are happy to have had the opportunity to help Mr. Vo in vindicating his rights and those of other Louisianans similarly situated.”

Today’s ruling comes a half century after Loving v. Virginia, which upheld the rights of people to marry regardless of ethnicity or race.

Former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed Act 436, also known as HB 836, in July 2015. Before it passed, lawmakers warned that it would unnecessarily burden foreign-born residents such as Vo and that it was “a mistake” to try to use marriage to regulate immigration. Louisiana lawmakers passed it anyway, and the law went into effect in January 2016.

Today’s court order is available at https://www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Vo-v-Gee-Opinion-and-Permanent-Injunction-2017-08-08.pdf.

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