Senators restart debate over Louisiana marriage license law
BATON ROUGE — Amid a court dispute that has blocked the existing statute, Louisiana lawmakers on Monday revived efforts to rewrite a state law requiring people to produce a birth certificate to get a marriage license.
A federal judge in March stopped enforcement of the 2016 law after a foreign-born U.S. citizen sued because he was unable to produce the birth document and obtain a marriage license.
A House-backed proposal to tweak the law was derailed in a Senate committee after it ran into criticism from those involved in the lawsuit. But senators unanimously agreed Monday to add into an unrelated bill language that would allow applicants who aren’t able to provide a birth certificate or a social security number to get a waiver from a judge.
The proposal, backed 38-0 by the Senate, heads to the House for consideration.
A lawyer for Viet Anh Vo, who filed the lawsuit challenging the existing law, told senators in committee testimony that a court order permanently blocking enforcement of the law would resolve the issue, and that request has been made to the federal judge. Senators, however, said the Legislature should provide some direction about marriage license issuances.
In March when U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle temporarily blocked the law, he said the birth certificate requirement violates the equal protection rights of foreign-born U.S. citizens, as well as the fundamental right to marry.
Vo had been a U.S. citizen since he was 8-years-old but has no birth certificate because he was born in an Indonesian refugee camp after his parents fled Vietnam. His lawsuit said he and his fiancée spent thousands and invited 350 guests to their wedding before their application for a marriage license was rejected last year. They went ahead with the ceremony and exchanged wedding bands, but the marriage lacked legal status.
House Bill 439: <a href="http://www.legis.la.gov" target="_blank">www.legis.la.gov</a>