For a gender-based classification to withstand equal protection scrutiny, it must be established at least that the challenged classification serves important governmental objectives and that the discriminatory means employed are substantially related to the achievement of those objectives.
A son was born outside the United States to unwed parents. The father was a US citizen and the son became a lawful permanent resident. During his time in the US, the son pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault on a child and the immigration judge found the son deportable. The son's claim to citizenship was also rejected. 8 U.S.C.S. § 1409 imposed different requirements for a child's acquisition of citizenship depending upon whether the citizen parent was the mother or the father. The law is now being questioned for its constitutionality and consistency with equal protection.
Is the law unconstitutional for providing different requirements for a child's acquisition of citizenship depending upon whether the citizen parent was the mother or the father?
The court found that the imposition of the requirement for a paternal relationship, but not a maternal one, was justified by two important governmental objectives. The first objective was the importance of assuring that a biological parent-child relationship existed. The second objective was the determination to ensure that the child and the citizen parent had some demonstrated opportunity or potential to develop a relationship that consisted of the real, everyday ties that provided a connection between child and citizen parent. The means adopted by Congress to further its objectives substantially related to the facilitation of a relationship between parent and child. The difference between men and women in relation to the birth process was a real one, and the principle of equal protection did not forbid Congress to address the problem at hand in a manner specific to each gender.