US

Law requiring birth certificate for marriage challenged

Viet Anh Vo is a U.S. citizen who has lived in Louisiana since he was an infant, but he says in court papers he's unable to get a marriage license under a 2015 state law that, he argues, discriminates against the foreign-born.

A federal judge in New Orleans was set to hear the case Wednesday.

At issue is a requirement that marriage license applicants present a certified copy of their birth certificates. The 31-year-old Vo was born in an Indonesian refugee camp after his parents fled Vietnam. Vietnamese and Indonesian authorities did not recognize his birth or issue a birth certificate, his lawsuit says.

Defendants in his suit are state officials and court clerks in three parishes where he was denied a license. It's unclear when the judge will rule.

Vo and his U.S.-born fiancee, Heather Pham, spent thousands of dollars on their wedding before their application for a marriage license was rejected last year. His lawsuit says they went ahead with a ceremony without a license to make it official.

"The couple, greatly disappointed, proceeded to hold a sacramental marriage in their Catholic Church. This marriage, however, is not legally recognized by Defendants or the State of Louisiana," his court papers say.

Vo filed suit in October and filed a motion in February asking for a preliminary injunction to block the law. He's being aided by the New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice and the National Immigration Law Center.

The 2015 law's Republican sponsor said it was designed to crack down on people using sham marriages to gain visas and citizenship. Vo's suit claims the law violates his constitutional rights and discriminates against foreign-born people.