A gay Atlanta couple is taking on the U.S. State Department in federal court for refusing to recognize their infant daughter’s citizenship.

Lambda Legal, Immigration Equality and pro bono counsel Morgan Lewis filed the suit in U.S. District Court on Tuesday on behalf of Derek Mize, Jonathan Gregg and their daughter Simone Mize-Gregg.

The State Department’s policy is unconstitutional and discriminatory, according to Karen Loewy, senior counsel for Lambda Legal.

“Simone was born to two dads, who lovingly and intentionally brought her into the world, and their family is entitled to equal respect from the federal government,” Loewy said in a press release. “The Supreme Court has been clear that married same-sex couples cannot be denied the same protections that different-sex couples receive, and that includes the right to be recognized as their children’s parents regardless of who has a biological connection to a child.”

“The State Department has no business refusing to recognize Simone as an American citizen just like her parents. We will not allow this State Department to treat LGBT families like second-class citizens,” she added.

Mize and Gregg, who went public with their story in May, met in 2014 and married in New York in 2015. A close friend, who is British, served as their surrogate, and daughter Simone (photo middle) was born at a British hospital in 2018.

They applied for citizenship for Simone and received a letter from the U.S. embassy in London that said Gregg (photo left) — who lived in Britain for most of his life before moving to the U.S. to be with Mize (photo right) — didn’t have enough years in America.

Mize, a former lawyer, and Gregg, a management consultant, are ensnared in a State Department policy that requires a child born abroad to have a biological connection to an American parent in order to receive citizenship at birth.

The State Department routinely denies the Immigration & Nationality Act rights of same-sex couples and their children, according Aaron C. Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality. 

“The State Department’s policy is not only cruel, it is unconstitutional. The government refuses to recognize Jonathan and Derek’s marriage and all of Simone’s rights as a U.S. citizen,” Morris said in the press release. “The fight for marriage equality is not over, and we will not stand down until the State Department changes its unlawful policy.”

Mize and Simone, who has a tourist visa, travel back and forth to Britain. Mize is worried that the situation is disrupting Simone’s development, and he’s unsure what’s going to happen if it’s not resolved, according to the New York Times.

“Becoming Simone's fathers has been the greatest privilege of our lives,” the couple said in the press release. “Her beautiful voice, her hugs, her toddling around the house — these are daily blessings in our home. We are filing this litigation today because, as her parents, we have a duty to protect our daughter.”

Photo courtesy James Derek Mize