A Short History of Sex and Citizenship:
91 Boston University School of Law 1485 (2011)
Boston University School of Law Paper 11-61
The historians’ amicus brief that accompanies this essay was submitted to the Supreme Court in Flores-Villar v. United States, an equal protection challenge to federal statutes that regulate the citizenship status of foreign-born children of American parents. When the parents of such children are unmarried, federal law encumbers the ability of American fathers to secure citizenship for their children, while providing American mothers with a nearly unfettered ability to do the same. The general question before the Court in Flores-Villar – and a question that the Court has addressed in sum and substance on two other occasions during the last thirteen years – was whether the gender asymmetry in this statutory scheme is consistent with constitutional sex-equality principles. The goal of the historians’ amicus brief in Flores-Villar was to explain to the Court how this ostensibly obscure citizenship law is part of a larger historical phenomenon: the persistence of gender-based sociolegal norms in determining citizenship. The introductory essay provides an overview of the account provided in the brief and discusses how generic conventions shaped the amicus brief’s presentation of the history of sex-based citizenship laws.
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