Saving the children of immigrants from the stigma of “illegitimacy”

Society has a long history of stigmatizing children born to unmarried parents, which can cause significant legal and societal discrimination for children and families today. However, as more parents remain unmarried when starting their families, the notion of an "illegitimate" child has begun to change.

Still, in 2010, the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) sought to resurrect illegitimacy by changing the way it recognized children born to immigrants. ISDH adopted a policy to prevent the children of immigrants from being legitimized through paternity affidavits if the unmarried parents did not have Social Security numbers—unattainable due to their immigration status.

American children should enjoy all the rights guaranteed in the Constitution regardless of their parents' marriage status.

In L.P. et al. v. Commissioner, Indiana State Department of Health, the ACLU of Indiana challenged that policy on behalf of a class of children, all American citizens, whose parents were unable to legitimize their births through paternity affidavits. We argued that the policy's unwarranted discrimination violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In 2011, following a hearing, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana ordered ISDH to accept the paternity affidavits of children born in Indiana whose parents could not obtain Social Security numbers because of their immigration status. This victory on behalf of immigrant families and children is part of the ACLU of Indiana's commitment to protecting the rights of immigrants in Indiana.