High Court Strikes Down Law Favoring Unwed Mothers Over Unwed Fathers


The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a federal law based on what the justices called “stunning stereotypes” — among them that most men care little about their children born out of wedlock.

Under the law, a child born abroad to an unwed American mother automatically becomes a U.S. citizen if the mother previously lived in the U.S. for a period of at least one year.

In contrast, the child of an unwed father can’t become a U.S. citizen unless the father has lived in the U.S. for a continuous period of five years, two of them when he was over the age of 14.

Now, the Supreme Court has ruled that the different gender lines drawn by Congress violate the Constitution’s guarantee to equal protection of the law.

The case was brought by Luis Ramón Morales-Santana, born in the Dominican Republic to unwed parents — a mother from the D.R. and a U.S.-citizen father who had been working on a construction project there.

Morales-Santana’s father fell 20 days short of the U.S. residency required to qualify his son for automatic citizenship at birth, but the father took responsibility for the son; the parents eventually married and put the father’s name on the birth certificate.

Morales-Santana came to the U.S. with his parents as a permanent resident. But in 2000, after he was convicted of several felonies, the government sought to deport him.

Morales-Santana then challenged the citizenship law as unconstitutional sex discrimination, and on Monday the Supreme Court agreed: the child of an unwed American mother cannot be granted automatic citizenship more quickly than the child of an unwed American father.

Justice Ginsburg center stage

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority — and in many ways for her the opinion was a trip down memory lane.

Ginsburg cited decisions she briefed and argued as an attorney nearly 50 years ago — decisions that transformed the law and put gender discrimination nearly on a par with unconstitutional race discrimination.

This decision is a major victory for the justice, who for 20 years battled unsuccessfully for equal treatment of men and women seeking to pass citizenship on to their children. On Monday she was able to turn the corner.

It’s the fourth time in two decades that the court has grappled with some version of this issue. In 2001, the justices upheld the differential treatment by a 5-to-4 vote, and twice the court failed to reach a majority ruling.

On Monday however, the vote was 6-to-2 to require equal treatment of unwed mothers, fathers and their children. Joining in the Ginsburg opinion were not just the court’s other liberals, but Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Breaking eggs to get to a six-justice majority

But the decision left what Ginsburg called the “vexing problem” of what to do next.

The rule in a typical case would be to extend the favorable treatment of one sex — in this case women — to men. But here, Ginsburg observed, favorable treatment for mothers was the exception to the general rule in the statute.

She said the court was not free to make the exception into the general rule. Instead, she said, it is up to Congress to set the same rule for everyone.

In the meantime, Ginsburg said, the law would have to be equalized by making unwed mothers abide by the tougher citizenship rules that in the past have applied to unwed fathers — which means Morales-Santana would not qualify for citizenship.

University of Chicago law professor Mary Anne Case says she suspects that it “broke [Ginsburg’s] heart” to have to do it this way. “This is an omelet that they made by breaking some eggs,” she said.

Still, the court for the first time has applied the concept of gender equality to the nation’s citizenship laws.

The case is Sessions, Attorney General v. Morales-Santana.


Washington, 12 jun (EFEUSA).- El Tribunal Supremo anuló hoy una ley que hacía más difícil obtener la ciudadanía estadounidense a los hijos de padres solteros que a los hijos de madres solteras, una diferencia de género que los magistrados consideraron “discriminatoria”.
De manera unánime, los jueces determinaron que la Ley de Inmigración y Nacionalidad de 1952, por la que se regula la concesión de la ciudadanía estadounidense a hijos de padres solteros, es “incompatible” con la Constitución del país que garantiza que “todos los ciudadanos son iguales bajo la ley”.
Esa ley de 1952 establecía que, para poder otorgar la ciudadanía estadounidense a los hijos que han nacido en el extranjero, los progenitores varones debían pasar en Estados Unidos al menos 10 años antes del nacimiento de sus vástagos y luego, además, cinco años después de que el hijo cumpliera 14 años.
Para las mujeres solteras, sin embargo, el único requisito era que residieran un año en Estados Unidos y, con eso, podían otorgar la ciudadanía estadounidense a sus hijos. En su fallo, escrito por la jueza progresista Ruth Bader Ginsburg, el Tribunal Supremo determinó que los requisitos de género delineados por la ley “son incompatibles con la protección de la Constitución para que todas las personas tenga la misma protección bajo la ley”.
Aunque fallaron en contra de la ley, los jueces negaron amparo a Luis Ramón Morales-Santana, el hombre que ha dado nombre al caso y que nació en 1962 en la República Dominicana de un hombre con ciudadanía estadounidense y una mujer dominicana. Condenado por robo e intento de asesinato, Morales-Santana fue el encargado de llevar la ley de 1952 hasta el Tribunal Supremo.
Cuando iba a ser deportado a República Dominicana, Morales-Santana afirmó que era ciudadano estadounidense porque su padre había vivido en Estados Unidos. Frente a ello, la Junta de Apelaciones de Inmigración, encargada de decidir sobre las deportaciones, determinó que Morales-Santana no era ciudadano estadounidense porque su padre no residió en Estados Unidos los cinco años requeridos para otorgarle la ciudadanía, una vez que el joven tenía más de 14 años.
Los jueces del Tribunal Supremo no anularon hoy la decisión de la Junta de Apelaciones de Inmigración, por lo que la orden de deportación contra Morales-Santana sigue en pie. – See more at: http://laconexionusa.com/noticias/20170612362855_lc36285512.asp#sthash.sXQ4G1mA.dpuf
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