In January 2016, a law went into effect in Louisiana that required a birth certificate from foreign-born residents before they could get a marriage license. While people who were born in the U.S. could get a judge's waiver if they couldn't get a birth certificate, those people who were born in another country were not given the same option.
Earlier this month, a federal district court ruled that the law was unconstitutional. The law adversely affected one specific group of the state's population: refugees. There is a large section of the state's population that are refugees from Vietnam and Laos, having fled during the Vietnam War. Many have received their citizenship, but have never received birth certificates.
According to an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, in its ruling, "The court recognized that Louisiana had a two-tiered system, between those born outside of the country and those born inside the country." Even though lawmakers tried to fix some of the problems in the latest legislative session, not all of the constitutional problems were fixed.
The religious right had backed the bill, the same group that wanted marriage equality denied to same-sex couples. The goal of the law was to prevent "marriage fraud," bigamy and "crafty terrorists." Valerie Hodges, a Republican state representative who sponsored the law said, "We don't want terrorists obtaining green cards and citizenship through marriage and I believe my constituents would agree with me." Almost two years ago, one gay man celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that made same-sex marriage legal. This latest ruling also gave him a reason to celebrate. He said that it "shows you how easily you can have your rights ripped away if you're not paying attention to lawmakers."
If you find that your immigrant status has led to inequality, an experienced Hammond, Louisiana, family law attorney can help. Through strong advocacy, he or she will work to ensure that inequality does not affect your family law goals.
Source: The Register Guard, "Anti-immigrant Louisiana marriage law struck down by federal court," Catherine Rampell, Aug. 11, 2017