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

Issue:
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.

Holding:
Unconstitutional.

Reasoning:

  • 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.