Nameless Persons: Legal Discrimination against Non-Marital Children in the United States

Nameless Persons: Legal Discrimination against Non-Marital Children in the United States

Nameless Persons: Legal Discrimination against Non-Marital Children in the United States

Nameless Persons: Legal Discrimination against Non-Marital Children in the United States

Synopsis

This study examines the legal discrimination suffered in the United States by children born out of wedlock. The authors analyze the Supreme Court's equal protection birth status decisions from 1968 to 1992 and, in a case-by-case analysis, trace the development of the Court's rulings, examine the pattern of equal protection tests utilized, and evaluate the consistency of the Court's position. In addition, the work examines the related discrimination suffered by the families of non-marital children, especially single parents and alternative family units, and concludes that it is impossible to gain full equality for children born out of wedlock unless equality is also gained for their family unit. Toward these ends, the authors suggest a feminist jurisprudence as a methodology for addressing the underlying issue at the crux of birth status distinctions.

Excerpt

In 1968, the United States Supreme Court recognized children born outside of wedlock as "persons" under the Equal Protection Clause. Since then the Court has slowly expanded the legal rights of non-marital children. The Court has not, however, provided total relief for these children. Nor has it adequately protected the rights of single parents or non-marital family units.

In this book we analyze the Supreme Court's equal protection birth status decisions from 1968 to 1992 and suggest that those affected by birth status classification might obtain relief and protection through the utilization of feminist jurisprudence and international normative standards. Through a case-by-case analysis, we trace the development of the Court's rulings, examine the pattern of the equal protection tests utilized, and evaluate the consistency of its position.

The Court's reluctance to declare birth status a suspect category deprives non-marital children and single parents of life, liberty, and property. For the Court to properly protect the Fourteenth Amendment rights of non-marital children, single parents, and alternative family units, it should alter its approach to birth status cases and focus on the needs and rights of all persons affected by birth status classifications. Feminist jurisprudence provides the Court with a methodology to address the underlying issue at the crux of birth status distinctions. Further, international normative standards, with their unambiguous recognition of human rights, could then inform the Court's interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause. By these means, the Court would be able to guarantee the substantive rights of non-marital children and their parents.

Chapter 1 begins with notes on nonsexist language usage and the terminology employed throughout this book. It also traces the historical foundations for discrimination against non-marital children and single . . .

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