Courts To Decide if US Passport Can Say ‘Jerusalem, Israel’

The Supreme Court took a step toward allowing Jerusalem-born Americans to list Israel as their birthplace on their U.S. passports  Monday when it overturned a lower court decision saying federal courts had not jurisdiction in the case.

The 8-1 decision overturned a lower court's ruling that it had no authority in the case because it involved a political dispute between the president and the Congress, but Chief Justice John Roberts ordered a re-hearing by the lower court on the merits, noting, "The courts are fully capable of determining whether this statute may be given effect." 

The case involves Jerusalem-born Menachem Zivotofsky whose parents sued the State Department for refusing to issue him a passport showing he was born in Israel.  It only says "Jerusalem" but no state.  He was born in 2002 in the western part of the city.

Roberts said the question before the court is not a political one, reported the Associated Press:

 “The federal courts are not being asked to supplant a foreign policy decision of the political branches with the courts’ own unmoored determination of what the United States policy toward Jerusalem should be. Instead, Zivotofsky requests that the courts enforce a specific statutory right. To resolve his claim, the judiciary must decide if Zivotofsky’s interpretation of the statute is correct, and whether the statute is constitutional. This is a familiar judicial exercise.”

Several national Jewish groups backed Zivotofsky family's case and submitted friend of the court briefs on their behalf, according to the JTA.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.