Miller v. Albright
523 U.S. 420 (1998)

Annotate this Case

OCTOBER TERM, 1997

Syllabus

MILLER v. ALBRIGHT, SECRETARY OF STATE

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT

No. 96-1060. Argued November 4, 1997-Decided April 22, 1998

Petitioner was born out of wedlock in 1970 in the Philippines. Her mother is a Filipino national. Her father, Charlie Miller, is an American citizen residing in Texas who served in the United States military in the Philippines at the time of petitioner's conception. He never married petitioner's mother, and there is no evidence that he was in the Philippines at the time of her birth or that he ever returned there after completing his tour of duty. In 1992, the State Department denied petitioner's application for registration as a United States citizen. Mter a Texas court granted Mr. Miller's petition for a paternity decree finding him to be her father, petitioner reapplied for citizenship status, which was again denied on the ground that the Texas decree did not satisfy 8 U. S. C. § 1409(a)(4)'s requirement that a child born out of wedlock and outside the United States to an alien mother and an American father be legitimated before age 18 in order to acquire citizenship. Petitioner and Mr. Miller then sued the Secretary of State in Federal District Court in Texas, seeking a judgment declaring her to be a United States citizen. They emphasized that the citizenship of an out-of-wedlock, foreign-born child of an alien father and an American mother is established at birth under § 1409(c), and alleged that § 1409's different treatment of citizen fathers and citizen mothers violated Mr. Miller's Fifth Amendment equal protection right by utilizing the suspect classification of gender without justification. Concluding that Mr. Miller did not have standing, the court dismissed him as a party and transferred venue to the District Court for the District of Columbia. That court dismissed the suit on the ground that federal courts do not have power to grant citizenship. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that petitioner had standing to sue, but concluding that the § 1409 requirements imposed on a child like her, but not on the foreign-born, out-of-wedlock child of an American mother, were justified by governmental interests in fostering the child's ties with this country and with her citizen parent.

Held: The judgment is affirmed. 96 F.3d 1467, affirmed.

JUSTICE STEVENS, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE, concluded that § 1409(a)(4)'s requirement that children born abroad and out of wedlock to citizen fathers, but not to citizen mothers, obtain formal


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proof of paternity by age 18 does not violate the Fifth Amendment. Pp.428-445.

(a) The foregoing is the only issue presented by this case's facts.

Certain other issues need not be resolved: Whether Fiallo v. Bell, 430 U. S. 787, dictates the outcome here; the validity of the distinction drawn by §§ 1401(g) and 1409(c) between residency requirements for unmarried citizen fathers and unmarried citizen mothers wishing to transmit citizenship at birth to their foreign-born, out-of-wedlock children; and the validity of §§ 1409(a)(1) and (a)(3), which impose additional requirements on citizen fathers wishing to transmit such citizenship. Because petitioner is contesting the Government's refusal to register and treat her as a citizen, a judgment in her favor would confirm her pre-existing citizenship rather than grant her rights that she does not now possess. The Court of Appeals was therefore correct that she has standing to invoke the federal courts' jurisdiction. Moreover, because her claim relies heavily on the proposition that her citizen father should have the same right to transmit citizenship as would a citizen mother, the Court should evaluate the alleged discrimination against him, as well as its impact on her. See, e. g., Craig v. Boren, 429 U. S. 190, 193197. Pp.428-433.

(b) The § 1409(a)(4) rule applicable to each class of out-of-wedlock children born abroad is eminently reasonable and justified by important Government interests: ensuring reliable proof that a person born out of wedlock who claims citizenship by birth actually shares a blood relationship with an American citizen; encouraging the development of a healthy relationship between the citizen parent and the child while the child is a minor; and fostering ties between the child and the United States. Male and female parents of foreign-born, out-of-wedlock children are differently situated in several pertinent respects. The child's blood relationship to its birth mother is immediately obvious and is typically established by hospital records and birth certificates, but the relationship to the unmarried father may often be undisclosed and unrecorded in any contemporary public record. Similarly, the child's birth mother certainly knows of the child's existence and typically will have immediate custody, whereas, due to the normal interval of nine months between conception and birth, an unmarried father may not even know that his child exists, and the child may not know the father's identity. Section 1409(a)(4)'s requirement-that children born out of wedlock to citizen fathers obtain formal proof of paternity by age 18, either through legitimation, written acknowledgment by the father under oath, or adjudication by a competent court-is well tailored to address these concerns. The conclusion that Congress may require an affirmative act by unmarried fathers and their children, but not mothers and their


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Full Text of Opinion

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