Court to hear Jerusalem births passport case

The Supreme Court announced Monday that, against the wishes of the Obama administration, it would hear a case on whether U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem can have their passports show Israel as their place of birth.

The United States recognizes no state as having sovereignty over Jerusalem, leaving the decision up to Israel, Palestinians and others involved in the peace process there.

The court chose to hear the appeal of a lower court decision that had struck down a law passed in Congress in 2002 that would have allowed the listing.

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The case has the potential to revive a dicey issue that gained relevance on the presidential campaign in 2012, when former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. Embassy there if he were president.

The Obama administration had urged the court to not take up the case, arguing the law infringes on the executive branch’s sole authority to decide whether and on what terms to recognize a foreign state.

The court battle, which has divided the executive and Congress, stems from a provision tucked inside the Foreign Relations Authorization Act in fiscal year 2003, which laid out the passport rules.

President George W. Bush signed the bill but issued a signing statement that said U.S. policy on Jerusalem had not changed and the provision could "impermissibly interfere" with the president's authority.

The Obama administration outlined a similar argument in its brief to the court arguing for it not to take up the case. House and Senate members filed a separate brief arguing for the court to take up the case.

In its brief, the Obama administration argued leaders on both sides are currently engaged in negotiations in broader peace negotiations.

"Israeli and Palestinian leaders are currently engaged in such negotiations on a number of key issues including the future status of Jerusalem in significant part because of intensive United States diplomatic efforts," the brief reads. "These efforts are predicated on the need for the two sides to reach mutually acceptable solutions."

The lawsuit stems from the parents of a child born in Jerusalem in 2002, who want the government to enforce the contested law and have their son's passport show his birthplace as Israel.

A lower court dismissed the suit and an appeals court agreed, saying that forcing the State Department to make the change would require the courts to make a decision "the Constitution leaves [to] the executive alone."

The Supreme Court had previously remanded the case back to the lower courts for further review. The court's next term begins in October.

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