The Supreme Court just struck down a law favoring mothers over fathers in children’s citizenship cases

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The Supreme Court struck down on Monday a provision of a law that made it more difficult for unmarried fathers to pass their American citizenship onto kids born overseas.

In an unanimous 8-0 ruling, the Court decided that a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 — which required unwed American fathers to live in the US for at least five years after the age of 14 in order to grant citizenship to their kids, compared to only one for mothers — was unconstitutional.


“Those disparate criteria, we hold, cannot withstand inspection under a Constitution that requires the Government to respect the equal dignity and stature of its male and female citizens,” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the court’s opinion.

In the case, New York resident Luis Ramon Morales-Santana, who was born to a now-deceased American father and a Dominican mother, risked being deported to the Dominican Republic after committing a series of crimes in 1995.

Morales-Santana, who came to the US in 1975 as a lawful permanent resident, claimed that he was a US citizen because of his father. Though his father was an American citizen, he lived in the US for 20 days less than the five-year residency requirement.

Speaking for the rest of the court, Ginsburg wrote that such discrepancies came from a time when the husband was considered to be “dominant” while the mother was “the natural and sole guardian of a non-marital child.

The one-year residency requirement will now apply to both mothers and fathers looking to grant citizenship to their kids.

Despite striking down the section of the law, the Court said that it could not grant Morales-Santana citizenship and that would have to be decided by Congress.

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