Blog: Landmark Supreme Court decision overrules historic gender discrimination in British citizenship
John Vassiliou, associate at McGill and Co, writes on a Supreme Court judgment opening the door to applications for registration as a British citizen from people born abroad to a British mother between 1949 and 1983.
The Supreme Court has opened up British citizenship by double descent to all children of British women born between 1949 and 1983. Delivering a judgment which makes no attempt to disguise his academic interests as a historian, Lord Sumption delivered a simple solution to a question of statutory interpretation that has been described as “impenetrable” by the leading authority on nationality law (with whom the Inner House agreed) and “paradoxical” by the Supreme Court. The case is Advocate General for Scotland v Romein  UKSC 6.
Historical gender discrimination
British nationality law was from its inception until 1983 discriminatory towards women. Prior to 1983, British citizenship could only be passed to the next generation born abroad through the male line. This was remedied prospectively, but not retrospectively, by Parliament with the enactment of the British Nationality Act 1981 which commenced on 1 January 1983.
It was not until 2003 that Parliament attempted to retrospectively tackle this historic gender discrimination by opening up the possibility of an application for registration as a British citizen under the newly inserted section 4C of the BNA 1981. Such an application for British citizenship by descent through the female line must now be dealt with on the assumption that the law had always provided for citizenship by descent from the mother on the same terms as it provided for citizenship by descent from the father.
- Read the full blog on www.freemovement.org.uk