Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Urges Supreme Court to End Sex Discrimination in U.S. Immigration Law

A group of the nation’s leading population and family researchers and scholars challenged the sex stereotyping in a U.S. immigration law that makes it harder for fathers than mothers to pass their U.S. citizenship along to their children, in an amicus brief filed yesterday by Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic.

Relying on extensive social science research, the brief points out that although “out of wedlock” birth may be popularly associated with a mother raising her child alone, unmarried fathers are regularly involved with parenting their children from the time of birth.

The law at issue in the case, Lynch v. Morales-Santana, concerns children born outside the U.S. and outside of marriage, where one parent is a U.S. citizen and the other is not.  It requires unmarried U.S. citizen fathers to have spent ten years in the U.S. to pass along their citizenship to their children, while U.S. citizen mothers need only to have spent a single year in the U.S. before the child’s birth.  (The law has since been revised to reduce the residency time for fathers to five years, which is still five times longer than for mothers.)

Relying on national and international data, the brief argues that “the challenged law’s imposition of extra barriers on nonmarital fathers’ passage of U.S. citizenship to their children—barriers that it does not place on nonmarital mothers—appears to reflect flawed gender stereotypes about the likely involvement of unwed fathers in their children’s lives.”

Suzanne B. Goldberg, Herbert and Doris Wechsler Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic said, “Treating unmarried fathers as a category of people who do not take responsibility for their children is flawed as a matter of fact and unconstitutional as a matter of sex discrimination law.” 

Oral argument is scheduled for November 9, 2016, and a ruling is expected by next June. 

Columbia Law School student Samuel Rosh ’18 assisted with the brief, and Peter K. Stris, Elizabeth Rogers Brannen, Thomas Logan and Victor O'Connell of Stris & Maher served as co-counsel.

Read the brief.

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Posted October 4, 2016

 

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