Justices strike down gender differences in citizenship law

by Marta Holmes June 13, 2017, 7:25
Justices strike down gender differences in citizenship law

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg relied in part on gender equality cases she brought as a pioneering civil rights lawyer Monday as the Supreme Court struck a law that treats unwed mothers and fathers differently when granting citizenship to their children born overseas.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the court, noted that the laws dictating citizenship requirements for those born overseas to unmarried parents - found in the Immigration and Nationality Act - "date from an era when the lawbooks of our Nation were rife with overbroad generalizations about the way men and women are".

But in a twist, the ruling failed to provide any relief to Luis Ramon Morales-Santana, the NY resident who successfully challenged the law.

In the interim, she said the law's five-year requirement should apply, prospectively, to children born to unwed USA -citizen mothers.

Popular Video This young teenage singer was shocked when Keith Urban invited her on stage at his concert. Fathers had to meet a longer requirement of physical presence in the USA than did mothers.

In the ruling, the Supreme Court said that until Congress revises the law, both women and men will be covered by the five-year requirement. With two million single fathers now caring for their children in the US, it is high time that this outdated law -rooted in the stereotype that mothers, not fathers, are responsible for their children - is declared unconstitutional. Unwed American mothers, meanwhile, are only subject to a 1-year US residency requirement to give their children USA citizenship. His father, who was unwed when Morales-Santana was born, was 20 days short of satisfying the five-year residency requirement. He challenged the law and asserted he is a USA citizen after authorities sought to deport him following convictions for robbery and attempted murder. But the prospective remedy is that children of unwed mothers have to meet the tougher standard, not that the children of unwed fathers get the more lenient one, she said.

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Justice Neil Gorsuch was not even nominated when the court heard oral arguments in November, but Monday's decision is otherwise unanimous.

The case is one of several with immigration-related themes that are before the justices at a time when President Donald Trump's administration is pursuing efforts to strengthen immigration enforcement.

"We hold that the gender line Congress drew is incompatible with the requirement that the government accord to all persons 'the equal protection of the laws, '" Ginsburg wrote.

In the interim, she said, the government must ensure the laws are administered in a way that is free from gender-based discrimination.

The court was equally unimpressed with the government's second justification, which centered on a desire to ensure that a child born outside the United States to an unmarried USA -citizen parent would not be "stateless" - that is, lacking any citizenship at all.

When Chief Justice John Roberts announced this morning that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the author of the opinion, it was a good sign for Morales-Santana. And because the court couldn't give Morales-Santana the relief he was looking for, Thomas continued (in a separate opinion that Alito joined), it did not need to decide any other questions, such as whether the residency requirement is constitutional.


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