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Louisiana considers altering, killing marriage-license bill

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Lawyers and lawmakers are ramping up efforts to alter or kill the Louisiana law that kept a foreign-born U.S. citizen from getting a marriage license because he couldn’t produce a birth certificate.

A Senate committee is scheduled on Tuesday to hear a bill that would allow judges to waive the birth certificate requirement. And a federal judge who temporarily blocked the law in March was asked this week by lawyers for Viet Anh Vo to permanently block it.

An attorney for Vo said the court effort will continue, regardless of the Legislature’s actions. Alvaro Huerta said in an email that there’s no certainty that a bill addressing problems with the law will make it through the legislative process. “We don’t have faith that the bill will resolve the issues that we’re litigating,” he said.

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 challenging the law said he and fiancee Heather Pham spent thousands of dollars 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. Lemelle’s March order enabled them to get a Louisiana marriage license. Juan Gastelum, of the National Immigration Law Center, which worked on the case, said Friday in an email that Vo and Pham have not yet gotten married.

Rep. Valarie Hodges, a Republican, sponsored both the law that kept Vo from getting a license and the new bill. She has said that her intent with her original bill was meant to deter foreigners from gaining visas and citizenship through sham marriages.

U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle issued a preliminary injunction in March, temporarily blocking the law pending further court proceedings. Attorneys filed motions Wednesday seeking a permanent injunction, and a formal declaration that the law as written violates Fourteenth Amendment provisions for equal protection and due process under law.

The state’s response is due by June 21.

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