Friday, November 15, 2013

Zablocki v. Redhail case brief

Zablocki v. Redhail case brief summary
434 U.S. 378 (1978)

Appellants, a class of county clerks, challenged a ruling by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, which found in favor of appellees, a class of Wisconsin residents, in holding that the marriage prohibition in Wis. Stat. § 245.10 (1973) violated the equal protection clause, U.S. Constitutional amendment XIV.

Wisconsin residents were prevented under Wis. Stat. § 245.10 (1973) from marrying if they were behind in their child support obligations or if the children to whom they were obligated were likely to become public charges. In a class action brought by the residents under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983, the county clerks contended that the statute assisted the state to counsel residents on their financial obligations and protected the children to whom support was owed.


  • The Court, however, found that the statute violated equal protection in that it directly and substantially interfered with the fundamental right to marry without being closely tailored to effectuate the state's interests. 
  • The Court noted that other future financial obligations were not curtailed, only those that might be associated with marriage, and further found that the effect of the statute was that more illegitimate children would be born.


The Court affirmed the judgment below, holding that the Wisconsin limitations on obtaining a marriage license were unconstitutional.

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