A federal court has ruled, once again, that the child of a legally married gay couple, born via surrogacy abroad, is a U.S. citizen and has been since her 2019 birth—refuting the Trump administration’s continuing policy of defining her and other similar surrogate births to LGBTQ parents as “out of wedlock.”

The convoluted policy is based on genetics. As reported by the Star Tribune, the case is one of several challenging the State Department’s policy of treating LGBTQ parents differently than heterosexual parents who travel to another country for surrogacy.

In a June 17 ruling, a federal judge in Maryland ordered the U.S. State Department to recognize Kessem Kiviti, who was born via surrogacy in Canada in February 2019, as a U.S. citizen since her birth and to issue her a U.S. passport. However, the decision did not extending to mandating changes in the State Department policy in regard to future cases.

The Kivitis Created Their Family Using Assisted Reproductive Technology

Kessem is the daughter of two gay dads: Roee Kiviti, who was born in Israel and moved to the United States with his  parents in 1982, at age 4; and Adiel Kiviti, born and raised in Israel, who moved to the U.S. in 2015 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in January 2019. The couple were married in Santa Barbara, California, in October 2013.

Kessem is the couple’s second child. Their first, a son, was, like Kessem, conceived through assisted reproductive technology, using a Canadian gestational surrogate, a donated egg, and Roee’s sperm. Following his birth, in November 2016, a Canadian court found that Roee was the boy’s biological father and that the Kivitis, and not the surrogate, were his legal parents. His Canadian birth certificate showed Adiel and Roee as his parents. Back in the U.S. with their son, the Kivitis applied for and received in February 2017 a U.S. passport for the baby, with no questions asked by the State Department about his biological relationship to the fathers.

When the two dads added Kessem to their family, they again traveled to Canada for gestational surrogacy, using an anonymously donated egg. But this time there was one critical difference: Adiel’s sperm was used instead Roee’s. In February 2019, a Canadian court established Adiel’s biological relationship to Kessem and ordered that the Kivitis, and not the surrogate, were Kessem’s legal parents. Her Canadian birth certificate showed Adiel and Roee as her parents.

Back in the United States with their daughter, the dads applied for a U.S. passport for her. A day later, they got a call from State Department requesting additional information, including details about the surrogacy arrangement. Adiel Kiviti provided a copy of the Canadian court order establishing the Kivitis as Kessem’s parents. But with Adiel, who had lived only a few years in the United States, as her genetically related parent, Kessem’s application fell under a different set of rules, which have been interpreted by the Trump State Department in the most onerous way. Because Roee is not biologically related to Kessem, under the State Department’s definition, she is considered to have been born “out of wedlock.” Because her biological father, Adiel Kiviti, had not lived in the United States for a minimum five years prior to her birth, the State Department determined that Kessem was not a U.S. citizen and denied the passport application.

In September 2019, followed by an Amended Complaint in December 2019, the Kivitis filed suit in federal court, claiming in part that the State Department discriminated against them as a same-sex couple and that their Fifth Amendment rights to equal protection had been violated. The suit also asked for “a permanent injunction against the State Department treating the children of same-sex couples as born out of wedlock and thereby denying them U.S. citizenship at birth.”

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Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.


Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

Los Angeles

5757 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 645

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Phone:  +1 323 331 9343

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

New York

501 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1900

New York, NY 10017

Phone:  +1 844 400 2016

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.