Held that the statute violated the equal protection clause.
The decisions of this court confirm that ht right to marry is of
fundamental importance for ALL individuals.
It is not surprising that the decision to marry has been placed
on the same level of importance as decisions relating to
procreation, childbirth, child rearing, and family
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.
- absolutely prevented from getting married
Some of those in the affected class, like appellee, will never
be able to obtain the necessary court order, because they either
lack the financial means to meet their support obligations or
cannot prove that their children will not become public charges.
These persons are absolutely prevented from getting married.
Many others, able in theory to satisfy the statute's
requirements, will be sufficiently burdened by having to do so
that they will in effect be coerced into forgoing their right to
And even those who can be persuaded to meet the statute's
requirements suffer a serious intrusion into their freedom of
choice in an area in which we have held such freedom to be
- Strict Scrutiny
When a statutory classification significantly interferes with
the exercise of a fundamental right, it cannot be upheld unless
it is supported by sufficiently important state interests and is
closely tailored to effectuate only those interests.
State Argues - Protects the welfare of the out-of-custody child.
- This "collection device" rationale cannot justify the
statute's broad infringement on the right to marry.
First, with respect to individuals who are unable to meet the
statutory requirements, the statute
merely prevents the applicant from getting married,
without delivering any money at all into the hands of the
applicant's prior children.
More importantly, regardless of the applicant's ability or
willingness to meet the statutory requirements, the State
already has numerous other means for
exacting compliance with support obligations, means
that are at least as effective as the instant statute's and yet
do not impinge upon the right to marry.
Concurrence - Justice Stewart
cannot join the opinion of the Court. To hold, as the Court
does, that the Wisconsin statute violates the Equal Protection
Clause seems to me to misconceive the meaning of that
Not invidious discrimination (EPC), but unwarranted encroachment
The problem in this case is not one of discriminatory
classifications, but of unwarranted encroachment upon a
constitutionally protected freedom.
think that the Wisconsin statute is unconstitutional because it
exceeds the bounds of permissible state regulation of marriage,
and invades the sphere of liberty protected by the Due Process
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Concurrence - Justice Powell
The Due Process Clause requires a showing of justification "when
the government intrudes on choices concerning family living
arrangements" in a manner which is contrary to deeply rooted
Does not pass muster under either the EPC or the DPC.
Concurrence - Justice Stevens
Under this statute, a person's economic status may determine his
eligibility to enter into a lawful marriage.
noncustodial parent whose children are "public charges" may not
marry even if he has met his court-ordered obligations.
Thus, within the class of parents who have fulfilled their
court-ordered obligations, the rich may marry and the poor may
This type of statutory discrimination is, I believe, totally
unprecedented, as well as inconsistent with our tradition of
administering justice equally to the rich and to the poor.
DISSENT - Justice Rehnquist
The statute so viewed is permissible exercise of the States
power to regulate family life and to assure the support of a