June 12, 2017

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court today ruled that one of the last remaining federal laws treating men and women differently violates equal protection. Congress cannot legislate based on “once habitual, but now untenable” stereotypes about male domination, wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in Sessions v. Morales-Santana. The court invalidated a federal citizenship statute that imposed different residency requirements on U.S. citizen fathers and mothers seeking to transmit citizenship to their non-marital children born abroad.

The court also encouraged Congress to take action to correct the unequal treatment of mothers and fathers and concluded that in the interim, the longer residency requirement imposed on fathers should also apply to mothers. The American Civil Liberties Union was amicus in this case, joined by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center, and the National Women’s Law Center.

Sandra Park, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, had this reaction:

“The court’s ruling recognizes that there is no justification for treating fathers and mothers unequally with respect to their parental roles. With two million single fathers currently caring for their children in the U.S., it is high time that this outdated law —rooted in the stereotype that mothers, not fathers, are responsible for their children — is declared unconstitutional. That the court struck down a law governing nationality and immigration also underscores that the government must abide by the Constitution’s limits in this arena, as in all others.”

The ruling is at: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/sessions-v-morales-santana-ruling

More information is at: https://www.aclu.org/cases/sessions-v-morales-santana

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