411 U.S. 619 (1973), 72-6258, New Jersey Welfare Rights Organization v. Cahill

Docket Nº:No. 72-6258
Citation:411 U.S. 619, 93 S.Ct. 1700, 36 L.Ed.2d 543
Party Name:New Jersey Welfare Rights Organization v. Cahill
Case Date:May 07, 1973
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 619

411 U.S. 619 (1973)

93 S.Ct. 1700, 36 L.Ed.2d 543

New Jersey Welfare Rights Organization

v.

Cahill

No. 72-6258

United States Supreme Court

May 7, 1973

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY

Syllabus

Statute limiting benefits of the "Assistance to Families of the Working Poor" program to those households in which the parents are ceremonially married and have at least one minor child of both, the natural child of one and adopted by the other, or a child adopted by both, denies equal protection to illegitimate children. 349 F.Supp. 491, reversed.

Per curiam opinion.

PER CURIAM.

This case presents the question of the constitutionality under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the New Jersey "Assistance to Families of the Working Poor" program, N.J.Stat.Ann. § 44:13-1 et seq., that allegedly discriminates against illegitimate children in the provision of financial assistance and other services. Specifically, appellants challenge that aspect of the program that limits benefits to only those otherwise qualified families

which consist of a household composed of two adults of the opposite sex ceremonially married to each other who have at least one minor child . . . of both, the natural child of one and adopted by the other, or a child adopted by both. . . .

N.J.Stat.Ann. § 44:13-3(a). Appellants do not challenge the statute's "household" requirement. Rather, they argue that, although the challenged classification turns upon the marital status of the parents as well as upon the parent-child relationship, in practical effect, it operates almost invariably to deny benefits to illegitimate children while granting benefits to those children who

Page 620

are legitimate. Although apparently conceding the correctness of this position, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, sitting as a three-judge court, * upheld the statutory scheme on the ground that it [93 S.Ct. 1701] was designed "to preserve and strengthen family life." 349 F.Supp. 491, 496 (1972).

Confronted with similar arguments in the past, we have specifically declared that:

The status of illegitimacy has expressed through the ages society's condemnation of irresponsible liaisons beyond the bonds of marriage. But visiting this condemnation on the head of an infant is illogical and unjust...

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