Justices strike down gender differences in citizenship law

Mark Wilson  Getty Images

Mark Wilson Getty Images

Federal immigration laws that make citizenship easier to obtain for the children of U.S. citizen mothers than for the children of United States citizen fathers are unconstitutional, the Supreme Court held on Monday.

The law requires that unwed fathers who are American citizens spend at least five years living in the United States - a 2012 amendment reduced it from 10 years - before they can confer citizenship to a child born overseas, out of wedlock and to a partner who is not a US citizen. Writing for six of the eight participating justices, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the differing requirements were "stunningly anachronistic". With two million single fathers now caring for their children in the USA, it is high time that this outdated law -rooted in the stereotype that mothers, not fathers, are responsible for their children - is declared unconstitutional.

"Successful defense of legislation that differentiates on the basis of gender, we have reiterated, requires an 'exceedingly persuasive justification, '" Ginsburg wrote, quoting her own opinion in USA v. Virginia.

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.

A federal appeals court struck down the law and said the one-year period must apply to both unwed fathers and mothers. The U.S. government has sought to deport him since 2000.

Justice Neil Gorsuch was not even nominated when the court heard oral arguments in November, but Monday's decision is otherwise unanimous. That this citation appears in an opinion joined by the chief justice shows the Obergefell ruling is gliding into the mainstream of the Court's jurisprudence, unlike other 5-4 rulings which a disgruntled minority prefers to keep at the margins.

Having concluded that the different treatment of unmarried USA -citizen mothers and fathers violated the Constitution, the justices now faced an even tougher question, which had been at the forefront of their minds during last year's oral argument: What can or should they do about the violation? Here, she observed, the more favorable treatment for unmarried USA -citizen mothers rested on the idea that an unmarried mother was "the child's natural and sole guardian".

She also cites the Court's 1975 ruling in Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, a case she argued as an attorney for the ACLU.

"Going forward, Congress may address the issue and settle on a uniform prescription that neither favors nor disadvantages any person on the basis of gender", Ginsburg wrote.

Ginsburg said the statutes at issue "date from an era when the lawbooks of our nation were rife with overbroad generalizations about the way men and women are".

Under the Immigration and Nationality act of 1952 as originally written, a child born outside of the United States to an unwed citizen father and a non-citizen mother has citizenship at birth only if the father was present in the United States for a period totaling at least 10 years, with at least five of those years occurring after the age of 14.

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 US -citizen parent would not be "stateless" - that is, lacking any citizenship at all.

Ginsburg said it's up to Congress to decide whether to extend the shorter residency requirement to unwed fathers.

Recommended News

  • Korea leader warns North after latest missile launch

    On Thursday, the North fired several short-range anti-ship cruise missiles from its east coast in defiance of global sanctions. The last time North Korea conducted a missile launch was on May 29, when it fired at least one short-range ballistic missile.
    Cancer patient charged with attempted murder over alleged plot to kill doctors

    Cancer patient charged with attempted murder over alleged plot to kill doctors

    The names of the targets have not been released, but at least one of them works at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco. From there he was transported to Santa Clara County jail, where records show he is being held without bail.
    At Least 12 Killed in Iran's Parliament and Khomeini Shrine Attacks

    At Least 12 Killed in Iran's Parliament and Khomeini Shrine Attacks

    Following the shooting, a gunman blew himself and another was shot to death by police forces and a women was also arrested. The intelligence ministry said there had been a third "terrorist" team that was neutralised before the attacks started.
  • Jury has begun deliberating in Cosby trial

    Jury has begun deliberating in Cosby trial

    While Cosby opted not to testify , prosecutors were expected to remind jurors about the statements he made in his deposition. Cosby corroborated Constand's statements when admitted to giving her pills and admitted to a sexual encounter, Steele said.
    Chris Smalling insists he has nothing to prove after Jose Mourinho's criticism

    Chris Smalling insists he has nothing to prove after Jose Mourinho's criticism

    Pogba also declared his first season back at Old Trafford as "complicated", after his world-record move. With the other players, I felt at ease from the first moment on.
    Philippines: At least 13 marines killed in battle against Islamist militants

    Philippines: At least 13 marines killed in battle against Islamist militants

    The request to Facebook comes just before the military's goal of liberating Marawi by June 12 - the country's Independence Day. The U.S. on Saturday confirmed that its special forces are assisting the Philippine military in the ongoing fight in Marawi.
  • Middlesbrough appoint Garry Monk as new manager

    Middlesbrough appoint Garry Monk as new manager

    There's no getting away from that. " Promotion has to be the ambition, and that's the kind of challenge that you want . I think in football nowadays everything, particularly in management, is a high-pressured situation.
    Suspected militant Danish Ahmed, seen at Sabzar Bhat's funeral, surrenders

    Suspected militant Danish Ahmed, seen at Sabzar Bhat's funeral, surrenders

    Danish Ahmed was last seen attending the funeral of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Sabzar Bhat's funeral in Tral, Awantipora. Danish is being considered under the J&K Surrendered Militants Rehabilitation Policy", added the spokesman.

    With WatchOS 4, Apple Watch Is All About Fitness

    Starting from high-intensity interval training to cardio and conditioning, the WatchOS 4 can detect sets completed by itself. General updates include faster performance and Core Bluetooth support, but those changes will take place under the hood.
  • Intelligence Leaders Testify Before Senate Panel Hearing

    Intelligence Leaders Testify Before Senate Panel Hearing

    Mr Comey reportedly told Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he did not want to be left alone with the president. The hearing brought four senior intelligence and law enforcement officials before the committee on Wednesday.

    Circling around US embeds, Syrian forces reach Iraq border

    During his visit to Saudi Arabia he said, "all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran". He then explained that the Iranian Regime forces are effectively trapping the USA ad allied forces.
    Eric Decker and the New York Jets set to part ways

    Eric Decker and the New York Jets set to part ways

    Before receiving the bad news, Harris told ESPN that he welcomed the return of Davis, who played with the Jets from 2012 to 2015. He went on to spend four seasons in Denver before leaving to sign a five-year deal worth NY in 2014 worth more than $36 million.

We are pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news.
Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper.
Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.