Gender Equality Justice For Unwed American Mothers And Fathers Abroad

The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a backward, gender discriminating federal law based on shocking stereotypes — one being that most men hardly care about their children born out of wedlock.

Under this 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 minimum of one year.

Under the very same law, a 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.

How could this law have such requirements? Who would think this? How did that even pass originally? It’s sad and disgusting.

Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court agrees. They have ruled that these horrid gender lines drawn by Congress violate the Constitution’s guarantee to equal protection of the law.

The problems with this law were brought forward for scrutiny by Luis Ramón Morales-Santana who born in the Dominican Republic to unwed parents. His mother was from the Dominican Republic while his father was a U.S. citizen.

At the time of Morales-Santana’s birth, his father was in the Dominican Republic working on a construction project.

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

With the law in place, Morales-Santana’s father fell short of the requirements for Morales-Santana to qualify for automatic U.S. citizenship. This meant deportation looked plausible.

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

Though the U.S. Supreme Court saw the law’s requirements as unconstitutional gender discrimination, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg 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.

Yep. Now it’s a matter of convincing Congress to fix their mess of a law. And it gets even worse. According to Ginsburg, the law would have to be equalized by making unwed mothers abide by the tougher citizenship rules that apply to unwed fathers.

So there you have it – equality between unwed mothers and unwed fathers for their children’s U.S. citizenship. Not what we were all expecting, but it is indeed equal.

Featured image via Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images