Supreme Court Hears Jerusalem Passport Case

If an American citizen is born in Jerusalem, what should his U.S. passport identify as his country of birth?  That is the question at the heart of a debate before the U.S. Supreme Court this week.  While Congress established in a 2002 law that Americans could choose to identify “Israel” on such passports, the State Department has insisted that only the word “Jerusalem” be stated.  The Executive Branch, under Presidents Obama and Bush, has regarded the 2002 Jerusalem law as unconstitutionally infringing on its power to recognize foreign governments and threatening its diplomacy in the Middle East.  Speaking to the Supreme Court Justices this week, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli asserted, “The question of the status of Jerusalem is the most vexing and volatile and difficult diplomatic issue that this nation has faced for decades…. [I]t is quite important for this Court to understand that there is a very serious risk… to our credibility as an honest broker.” While Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor appeared sympathetic to the Executive Branch argument, the other five Justices seemed less convinced.

  • Find the transcript of the oral argument in Zivotofsky v. Kerry before the Supreme Court this week, as well as in-depth coverage by Politico and SCOTUSblog.   

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: November 7, 2014


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