City of Ladue v. Horn
720 S.W.2d 745 (1986)

  • Horn and Jones were an unmarried couple. They bought a house in Ladue and lived there with children from their previous marriages.
    • It was a seven-bedroom house in a fancy neighborhood.
    • There was nothing stopping Horn and Jones from getting married, they just didn’t want to.
  • The City of Ladue had a zoning ordinance that had the house in a “single family residential” area. Ladue sued Horn and Jones to prevent them from living in their house.
    • Ladue argued that since they were an unmarried couple, they were technically two families, and so were not allowed to live there.
  • The Trial Court found for Ladue and told Jones and Horn they could not live in the house. They appealed.
    • Horn and Jones argued that the zoning ordinance was unconstitutional for three reason:
      • It infringed on their right to free association (1st Amendment).
      • It infringed on their right to privacy (1st Amendment).
      • It improperly discriminated against unmarried people (14th Amendment).
    • Horn and Jones argued that they met the definition of a family because they lived together and shared duties.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court found that Horn and Jones did not meet the definition of a family because they did not have a commitment to a permanent relationship and a perceived reciprocal obligation to support and care for each other.
    • The Court found that the ordinance did not violate any constitutional protections, and was a “valid land use legislation reasonably designed to maintain traditional family values and patterns.”
    • The Court found that allowing unrelated people to live together in a neighborhood could adversely affect property values, and so there was a rational basis for the ordinance.
  • Compare this decision to Braschi v. Stahl (74 NY.2d 201 (1989)), which extended the definition of ‘family’ to include an unmarried gay couple (in New York anyway).
    • One major difference is that Braschi and Stahl could not get legally married.
  • A major question of Family Law is what constitutes a family? Is it just people who are related by blood, marriage, or adoption (aka a form family), or does it include adults who intend to be a family (aka a function family)?