In 2005, the Board of Immigration Appeals (Board) issued the precedent decision Matter of Lovo-Lara, 23 I&N Dec. 746 (BIA 2005). The case involved a petitioner born in North Carolina who underwent sex reassignment surgery and then amended her birth certificate, reflecting her transition from male to female. Subsequently, she married her husband in North Carolina and filed an I-130 petition on his behalf. The Board noted that North Carolina law does not permit individuals of the same gender to marry each other. The petitioner legally amended her birth certificate to reflect her change in gender designation, and the evidence the petitioner submitted to the Board included her amended birth certificate. Consequently, the Board found North Carolina considered the petitioner to be female (per sex reassignment) under its laws and deemed her marriage to the beneficiary to be a valid heterosexual marriage. Although evidence of sex reassignment surgery was submitted in the Lovo-Lara case, the Board’s decision does not require submission of evidence of surgery in order to establish a valid heterosexual marriage. Rather, the reasoning underlying the Board’s decision suggests that the federal government should defer to how the state/local jurisdiction in which a claimed marriage takes place recognizes a legal change in gender for purposes of heterosexual marriage.
In the case of a spousal Form I-130 or I-129F involving the claimed marriage between two persons of the same birth sex, the submission of evidence is required to show that one of the individuals had in fact undergone sex reassignment surgery to show a change of gender. Benefits based upon marriage may be approved on the basis of a marriage between a transgender individual and an individual of the other gender if the Petitioner/Applicant establishes 1) the transgender individual has legally changed his or her gender and subsequently4 married an individual of the other gender, 2) the marriage is recognized as a heterosexual marriage under the law where the marriage took place (Matter of Lovo-Lara, 23 I&N Dec. 746 (BIA 2005)), and 3) the law where the marriage took place does not bar a marriage between a transgender individual and an individual of the other gender.