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Vo v. Gee

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

August 8, 2017

VIET ANH VO
v.
REBEKAH E. GEE, SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, ET AL

         SECTION “B” (5)

          OPINION AND PERMANENT INJUNCTION

         Before the court are “Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, Declaratory Judgment, and Permanent Injunction” (Rec. Doc. 84), “Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, Declaratory Judgment and Permanent Injunction” (Rec. Doc. 91), “Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment” (Rec. Doc. 89), “Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, Declaratory Judgment and Permanent Injunction” (Rec. Doc. 90), “Reply in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, Declaratory Judgment and Permanent Injunction” (Rec. Doc. 94) and “Notice of Changed Circumstances Regarding HB 439” (Rec. Doc. 95). For the reasons set forth below, IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff's Motions for Partial Summary Judgment, Declaratory Judgment and Permanent Injunction are GRANTED.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff, Viet “Victor” Anh Vo was born in an Indonesian refugee camp after his parents (both Vietnamese nationals) fled Vietnam as refugees (Rec. Doc. 1). Given this circumstance, Indonesian and Vietnamese authorities have never recognized his birth and consequently he has never been issued a birth certificate from a government entity (Rec. Doc. 1). Plaintiff has resided in Louisiana since he was three months old and became a naturalized citizen when he was eight years old (Rec. Doc. 1). In 2016, Plaintiff and his girlfriend (a fellow United States citizen) decided to get married and applied for a marriage license from the State of Louisiana (Rec. Doc. 1).

         Plaintiff was denied a marriage license pursuant to Act 436 which requires that all applicants for a marriage license provide a certified birth certificate, a valid and unexpired passport, or an unexpired visa accompanied by a Form I-94 (Rec. Doc. 1). Act 436 has a waiver of the birth certificate requirement but in order to qualify for the waiver an applicant must be a U.S. citizen that was born in the United States or one of its territories. Plaintiff was born outside of the United States and is naturalized citizen and therefore did not qualify for the waiver (Rec. Doc. 1). Plaintiff provided other official documents to the Clerk of Court including a social security number and a Louisiana state driver's license, but without a birth certificate as required by Act 436, the state of Louisiana refused to issue him a marriage license (Rec. Doc. 1).

         Plaintiff brought this complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against Defendants Rebekah Gee, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals for the State of Louisiana, Devin George, State Registrar and Director of the Office of Vital Records, Michael Thibodeaux, Clerk of Court for Iberia Parish, Diane Meaux Broussard, Clerk of Court for Vermilion Parish and Louis J. Perret, Clerk of Court for Lafayette Parish.

         After hearing oral argument, this Court in its March 23, 2017 Order and Reasons granted the Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Rec. Doc. 77).

         FACTUAL AND LEGAL FINDINGS

         A. Plaintiff's Motion for Permanent Injunction

         The legal standard for obtaining a permanent injunction mirrors the legal standard for obtaining a preliminary injunction. Lionhart v. Foster, 100 F.Supp.2d 383, 385-386 (E.D. La. 1999). A plaintiff must demonstrate “(1) actual success on the merits; (2) a substantial threat that failure to grant the injunction will result in irreparable injury; (3) the threatened injury outweighs any damage that the injunction may cause the opposing party; and (4) the injunction will not disserve the public interest.” Causeway Med. Suite v. Foster, 43 F.Supp.2d 604, 610 (E.D. La. 1999). However, the difference between the legal standard for a preliminary injunction and a permanent injunction is that the Plaintiff must demonstrate actual success on the merits and not just a likelihood of success. Lionhart, 100 F.Supp.2d 383, 386. Nonetheless, all of these factors weigh in favor of the Court granting a permanent injunction.

         1. Actual Success on the Merits

         Plaintiff seeks to demonstrate actual success on the merits through his Motion for Partial Summary Judgment regarding Counts I and II of the First Amended Complaint (Rec. Doc. 82). Count I alleges that Act 436 violates the Plaintiff's Equal Protection rights (Rec. Doc. 82). Count II alleges that Act 436 violates the Plaintiff's Due Process rights (Rec. Doc. 84). These are inherently purely questions of law and not fact and therefore this Court can adjudicate the summary judgment motion even in the absence of discovery.Brazos Valley Coalition for Life, Inc. v. City of Bryan Texas, 421 F.3d 314, 327 (5th Cir. 2005).

         Summary judgment is proper if the pleadings, depositions, interrogatory answers, and admissions, together with any affidavits, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986). A genuine issue exists if the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmovant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Although the Court must consider the evidence with all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the nonmovant must produce specific facts to demonstrate that a genuine issue exists for trial. Webb v. Cardiothoracic Surgery Assocs. of N. Texas, 139 F.3d 532, 536 (5th Cir. 1998).

         The moving party bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The movant must point to “portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56). If and when the movant carries this burden, the nonmovant must then go beyond the pleadings and use affidavits, depositions, interrogatory responses, admissions, or other evidence to establish a genuine issue. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. ZenithRadio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). “[W]here the non-movant bears the burden of proof at trial, the movant may merely point to an absence of evidence, thus shifting to the nonmovant the burden of demonstrating by competent summary judgment proof that there is an issue of material fact warranting trial. . . . Only when ‘there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party' ...


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