U.S. SUPREME COURT rules that Americans born in Jerusalem may not list Israel as their country of birth


The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the president alone has the power to recognize foreign nations, and it struck down as unconstitutional a congressional attempt to allow Americans born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their birthplace on passports.

Pat Dollard via WaPo:  President Obama and President George W. Bush had said the 2002 passport law embraces the interpretation that Jerusalem belongs to Israel, something the executive branch has long held should be settled by the parties in the Middle East. They refused to let the State Department honor such requests.


Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said Congress has a role in managing the nation’s foreign affairs but not in recognizing foreign nations and governments. “Recognition is a topic on which the nation must speak with one voice,” wrote Kennedy. “That voice must be the President’s.”

The vote to strike down the law was 6 to 3, with the court’s four liberals — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — joining Kennedy’s opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas said the law was unconstitutional, but he did not endorse Kennedy’s reasoning.

Justice Antonin Scalia made his displeasure with the decision more pronounced by reading portions of his dissent from the bench.


“The text and structure of the Constitution divide responsibility for foreign policy, like responsibility for just about everything else, between the two coordinate, equal political branches,” Scalia said. “A principle that the nation must have a single foreign policy, which elevates efficiency above the text and structure of the Constitution, will systematically favor the president at the expense of Congress.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. would have also upheld the law.

Roberts joined Scalia’s dissent but also wrote separately to say the court had ventured into unmarked and treacherous territory. He said the majority struck the law “based on the mere possibility that observers overseas might misperceive the significance of the birthplace designation.” Keep Reading