409 U.S. 535 (1973), 71-575, Gomez v. Perez

Docket Nº:No. 71-575
Citation:409 U.S. 535, 93 S.Ct. 872, 35 L.Ed.2d 56
Party Name:Gomez v. Perez
Case Date:January 17, 1973
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 535

409 U.S. 535 (1973)

93 S.Ct. 872, 35 L.Ed.2d 56

Gomez

v.

Perez

No. 71-575

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 17, 1973

Argued December 6, 1972

APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF CIVIL APPEALS OF TEXAS,

FOURTH SUPREME JUDICIAL DISTRICT

Syllabus

Texas law denying right of paternal support to illegitimate children while granting it to legitimate children violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Cf. Levy v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 68; Weber v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 406 U.S. 164.

466 S.W.2d 41, reversed and remanded.

Per curiam opinion.

PER CURIAM.

The issue presented by this appeal is whether the laws of Texas may constitutionally grant legitimate children a judicially enforceable right to support from their natural fathers and at the same time deny that right to illegitimate children.

In 1969, appellant filed a petition in Texas District Court seeking support [93 S.Ct. 874] from appellee on behalf of her

Page 536

minor child. After a hearing, the state trial judge found that appellee is "the biological father" of the child, and that the child "needs the support and maintenance of her father," but concluded that, because the child was illegitimate, "there is no legal obligation to support the child, and the Plaintiff take nothing." The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed this ruling over the objection that this illegitimate child was being denied equal protection of law. 466 S.W.2d 41. The Texas Supreme Court refused application for a writ of error, finding no "reversible error." We noted probable jurisdiction. 408 U.S. 920.

In Texas, both at common law and under the statutes of the State, the natural father has a continuing and primary duty to support his legitimate children. See Lane v. Phillips, 69 Tex. 240, 243, 6 S.W. 610, 611 (1887); Tex.Fam.Code § 4.02 (1970) (husband's duty).{1} That duty extends even beyond dissolution of the marriage, Tex.Rev.Civ.Stat., Art. 4639a (Supp. 1972-1973); Hooten v. Hooten, 15 S.W.2d 141 (Tex.Ct.Civ.App. 1929), and is enforceable on the child's behalf in civil proceedings and, further, is the subject of criminal sanctions. Tex. Penal Code § 602. The duty to support exists despite the fact that the father may not have custody of the child. Hooten v. Hooten, supra. The Court of Civil Appeals has held in this case that nowhere in this elaborate statutory scheme does the...

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