U.S. Supreme 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 of equal protection of the law.

An immigrant seeking citizenship

The case was brought by Luis Ramón Morales-Santana, born in the Dominican Republic to unwed parents — a mother from the DR 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 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.

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