Louisiana scraps anti-immigrant marriage law

After advocates win in court, lawmakers abandon law that denied immigrants the right to marry

NEW ORLEANS, September 21, 2017—The State of Louisiana has moved to scrap a state law denying immigrants marriage equality, following a powerful rebuke that advocates won against the law in federal court in August.

On Wednesday, the State of Louisiana abandoned Act 436, filing proposed language with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana to ensure that foreign-born applicants are not denied a marriage license, and thus the fundamental right to marry, based on the discriminatory documentary requirements imposed by the law.

Viet “Victor” Anh Vo filed the lawsuit, Vo v. Gee, et al., in October 2016 after he and his fiancée were prevented from obtaining a marriage license in multiple Louisiana parishes. They were blocked by Act 436, an unconstitutional state law that required any foreign-born person to present a certified birth certificate to obtain a marriage license. U.S.-born applicants could obtain a waiver of that requirement, but foreign-born persons could not.

The court issued a permanent injuction against Act 436 on August 8, forcefully rejecting anti-immigrant discrimination in Louisiana.

The proposal that the state filed yesterday, which was approved by plantiff’s counsel, ensures that foreign-born Louisianans are not asked to provide documents that are also not required of U.S.-born residents, and reinserts a process for obtaining a waiver from a judge if certain documents, like a birth certificate, are not easily accessible. It also adds a Certificate of Naturalization as an acceptable document in lieu of a birth certificate.

At a time when immigrants are under attack on many fronts, today’s move is a powerful win for marriage equality and the rights and dignity of immigrants in Louisiana.

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.

Elizabeth Beresford, NILC, elizabeth@elizabethbberesford.com, 917-648-0189