Federalizing Birth Certificate Procedures
Parness, Jeffrey A.
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A natural father is usually afforded under American law the unique "opportunity... to develop a relationship with his offspring" born to an unwed mother as a result of consensual sexual intercourse. This paternity opportunity interest often merits federal constitutional due process protection. Its enforcement, however, is often impaired by unfair state paternity designation procedures, especially in birth certificate settings. Inadequate procedures cause systematic losses of parental rights for "many responsible" natural fathers. Under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, Congress can act to enforce better male parental rights. It should now unify certain birth certificate practices for all children born in the United States to unwed mothers. In particular, Congress should improve the procedures for locating and educating natural fathers eligible for parental rights. It can do so by amending the federal Social Security Act provisions, added in 1996, on voluntary acknowledgments of paternity (or parentage).