Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U.S. 374 (1978)

Facts: Redhail, a Wisconsin resident, was denied a marriage license because of his failure to comply with a Wisconsin statute. However, under the statute, Redhail is unable to enter into a lawful marriage as long as he is unable to make child support payments. For two years, Redhail was unemployed and indigent.

Issue: Whether a Wisconsin statute that requires a certain class of residents to obtain a court order granting permission to marry is unconstitutional.

Procedural History: The US District Court held the statute unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause and enjoined its enforcement.

Wisconsin’s argument: The statute was intended to establish a mechanism whereby persons with support obligations to children from prior marriages could be counseled before they entered into new marital relationship and incurred further support obligations.

Holding: The statutory classification cannot be justified by the interests advanced in support of it. Affirmed.

Reasoning: The right to marry is of fundamental importance for all individuals. Loving v. Virginia. Additionally, if the “right to procreate means anything at all, it must imply some right to enter the only relationship in which the State of Wisconsin allows sexual relations legally to take place.” Reasonable regulations that do not significantly interfere with decisions to enter into the marital relationship may legitimately be imposed. However, the Wisconsin statute clearly does interfere directly and substantially with the right to marry.

Powell’s concurrence in the judgment: The majority sweeps too broadly in an area which traditionally has been subject to pervasive state regulation. Powell does not agree with the level of scrutiny and the lack of “any principled means for distinguishing between” regulations that “directly and substantially interfere” and “reasonable regulations that do not significantly interfere.” Powell advocates for an “intermediate scrutiny.”

Stevens concurrence in the judgment: Also agrees that the Court could have ruled more narrowly. There is a difference between classifications based on marital stauts and those that determine who may lawfully marry. Laws prohibiting marriage to a child or a close relative also interfere directly and substantially with the right to marry. However, under the Wisconsin statute, a person’s economic status may determine his eligibility to enter into a lawful marriage – this is unconstitutional.

Rehnquist’s dissent: Agrees with Powell’s reasons for rejecting the Court’s conclusion that marriage is the sort of “fundamental right” which must invariably trigger the strictest judicial scrutiny. Believes that under the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause, the statute only needs to pass a “rational basis test.” The State has an exceptionally strong interest in securing as much support as their parents are able to pay.

Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967)

Facts: Loving, a white man, and Jeter, a black woman were marriage in the District of Columbia. Shortly after their marriage, the Lovings returned to Virginia and established their home. Subsequently, a grand jury indicted the Lovings with violating Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage. The Lovings plead guilty to the charge and were sentenced to one year in jail; however, the trial judge suspended the sentence on the condition that the Lovings leave Virginia and not return together for 25 years. Virginia was one of 16 states at that time which prohibited and punished interracial marriages. Virginia argued that the statute did not constitute an invidious discrimination based upon race because it punished whites and blacks equally.

Issue: Whether a Virginia statute which prevents marriage between persons on the basis of racial classification violates the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Procedural History: The Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia upheld the constitutionality of the antimiscegenation statute and affirmed the convicted.

Holding: The Lovings’ convictions were reversed.

Reasoning: The state is correct that marriage is a social relation subject to the State’s police power, however, powers are limited by the commands of the Fourteenth Amendment. Racial classifications are subjected to the “most rigid scrutiny” and there is no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination. Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival.

Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas, 416 US 1 (1974)

Facts: The Village of Belle Terre is located on Long Island’s north shore and is inhabited by 700 people. Belle Terre restricts land use to one-family dwellings and Boraas became a colessee with five other college students. The Village of Belle Terre  defines “family” as “One or more persons related by blood, adoption, or marriage, living and cooking together as a single housekeeping unit, exclusive of household servants. A number of persons but not exceeding two (2) living and cooking together as a single housekeeping unit though not related by blood, adoption, or marriage shall be deemed to constitute a family.”

Issue: Whether the zoning ordinance interferes with certain fundamental rights such as the right to travel, immigrate to and settle within a State, barring people who are uncongenial to the present residents…and that the ordinance is antithetical to the Nation’s experience, ideology and self-perception as an open, egalitarian, and integrated society.

Holding: The zoning ordinance is upheld.

Reasoning: Zoning ordinances are legitimate police powers of the state, there is no fundamental right involved, and therefore, the zoning ordinance only needs to be “reasonable, not arbitrary” and bear a “rational relationship to a permissible state objective.”

Dissent (Justice Marshall): The classification burdens the students’ fundamental rights of association and privacy guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Therefore, the ordinance should not just be subjected to a rational basis review. Also, the Village of Belle Terre is free to limit the density of occupancy but cannot limit the density only in homes occupied by unrelated persons – the Village is then regulating the way people choose to associate with each other within the privacy of their own homes.

State v. Shack – 277 A.2d 369 (N.J. 1971)

Case Name: State v. Shack
Citation: 277 A.2d 369 (N.J. 1971)
Appellant: Tejeras and Shack
Appellee: State

Issue: Do real property rights, specifically the trespass statute or right to exclude, supersede the fundamental rights of an individual?

Key Facts: Defendants entered the private property of Tedesco to aid migrant farm workers who were employed and housed on his property. Both defendants work for nonprofit organizations that provide health (Tejeras) and legal (Shack) services to migrant workers. The defendants were confronted by Tedesco who inquired of their purpose. Tedesco offered to locate the specific migrant workers that the defendants were seeking but required that any consultation must take place in his office and in his presence. The defendants declined his terms and Tedesco summoned a State Trooper to have the defendants removed from his property.

Procedural History: Defendants were convicted in the Municipal Court of Deerfield Township for trespassing (criminal).

Holding: The appellate court found that the defendants did not violate any property rights of the farmer-employer and that there conduct went beyond the reach of the trespass statute.

Reasoning: Being mindful of the employer’s interest in his and his employees’ security, the employer may require a visitor to identify himself and state his general purpose. However, the employer cannot deny the worker his right to privacy or interfere with his opportunity to live with dignity and other customary benefits among citizens. These basic rights are too fundamental to be denied by property rights and too fragile to be left to the unequal bargaining strength of the parties.

Judgment: The county court’s finding was reversed and the appellate court remanded to the county court so that the defendants could be acquitted.