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Vo v. Gee, et al. (E.D. La)

READ CAC’S BRIEF IN Vo. v. Gee, et al.

In Vo v. Gee, et al., the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana considered whether a state law that requires marriage license applicants to present a birth certificate, but only allows individuals born in the United States to receive a waiver of that requirement, violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of the fundamental right to marry.

Enacted in January 2016, Louisiana’s Act 436 required all marriage license applicants to provide a birth certificate, and allowed for the requirement to be waived only for individuals born in the United States.  Under this law, Viet “Victor” Ahn Vo, a U.S. citizen born in an Indonesian refugee camp, was denied a marriage license because he was never issued a birth certificate. Though he could prove his identity through multiple other means of identification, and explained why he could not obtain a birth certificate, multiple clerks denied his request for a marriage license.  Vo moved for a preliminary injunction to block the law’s enforcement so that he could exercise his constitutional right to marry.

On February 8, 2017, CAC filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Vo’s motion for a preliminary injunction.  Our brief argued that Act 436 violated the principles of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution by infringing on the fundamental right to marry.  The Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of substantive liberty, together with its guarantee of equal protection for all persons, protects fundamental rights central to individual dignity and autonomy of all persons, regardless of where they were born.  By discriminatorily imposing burdensome requirements on foreign-born residents, who may not have ever been issued a birth-certificate, the law denied these citizens their fundamental right to marry.  The state argued that the law was in place to prevent individuals seeking an immigration benefit from committing marriage fraud; however, there were already federal immigration laws in place to serve just this purpose, and they negated the need for the over inclusive requirements of Act 436. Act 436’s discriminatory denial of the right to marry could not be squared with the Fourteenth Amendment’s text and history, as well as the Supreme Court’s recognition of the right to marry as “fundamental under the Constitution.”

On March 22, 2017, as CAC had urged, the district court granted Vo’s motion for a preliminary injunction.

On August 8, 2017, the district court permanently enjoined enforcement of Act 436 on the ground that it unconstitutionally discriminates against U.S. citizens based on national origin. The court recognized, as we explained in our brief in support of Vo’s motion for a preliminary injunction, that the Act violates the Fourteenth Amendment, both because it discriminates against him on the basis of national origin, and it denies him the fundamental right to marry.

Briefs filed by CAC: