Zablocki v. Redhail
434 U.S. 374, 98 S.Ct. 673, 54 L.Ed.2d 618 (1978)

  • Wisconsin passed a Statute (Wis.Stat. §245.10) that said a person could not get a marriage license unless they were up to date on their child support payments.
  • Redhail knocked up a girl, and was unable to make his child support payments (because he was in high school at the time).
  • Two years later, Redhail applied for a marriage license to marry a different girl and was denied. He sued in Federal Court, claiming that §245.10 was unconstitutional.
  • The Federal Court found that §245.10 was unconstitutional. Wisconsin appealed.
    • The Federal Court applied a strict scrutiny review and found that there was a compelling State interest in preventing children born out of wedlock, but that §245.10 didn’t effectively stop that from happening, so the interest was insufficient because the law was not narrowly tailored.
      • In order to pass a strict scrutiny review, a law must:
        • Be justified by a compelling governmental interest.
        • Be narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.
        • Use least restrictive means to achieve that interest.
  • The US Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The Court agreed with the Federal Trial Court in that the law didn’t achieve the objective it set out to meet.
    • The Court refused to apply strict scrutiny, and instead only asked if the Statute was supported by sufficiently important state interests and was closely tailored to effectuate only those interests.
      • That’s similar to the intermediate scrutiny level of review.
        • Intermediate scrutiny asks if a regulation involves important governmental interests that are furthered by substantially related means.
  • This decision cast doubt on previous rulings that there is a fundamental right to marry that is “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.”
    • If marriage is a fundamental right that cannot be infringed, then how does the government justify State laws that require blood tests, application fees, and other obstacles to obtaining a marriage license?