Orr v. Orr
440 U.S. 268 (1979)

The question presented is the constitutionality of Alabama alimony statutes which provide that husbands, but not wives, may be required to pay alimony upon divorce.



  • As a classification based on sex, the statute had to be substantially related to an important state interest.
    • Here, the legislative objectives were to provide help to needy spouses using sex as a proxy for need, and to compensate women for past discrimination during marriage.
    • The court conceded that assisting needy spouses was a legitimate and important governmental objective, and therefore focused on whether it was substantially related.
  • Basically, the individualized hearings is what it came down to:
    • “Under the statute, individualized hearings at which the parties’ relative financial circumstances are considered already occur. There is no reason, therefore, to use sex as a proxy for need. Needy males could be helped along with needy females with little if any additional burden on the State. In such circumstances, not even an administrative-convenience rationale exists to justify operating by generalization or proxy.”
  • Perverse result is that man w/ true need isn’t prevented from getting assistance.

Rule: State statutes that impose alimony obligations on one sex only are unconstitutional.