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City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, Inc

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 22 Ill.473 U.S. 432, 105 S. Ct. 3249, 87 L. Ed. 2d 313 (1985)

Brief Fact Summary. A Texas city, Cleburne (Petitioner) denied a special use permit for the operation of a group home for the mentally retarded. Cleburne Living Center (Respondent) purchased a building with the intention to house thirteen mentally retarded individuals.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The general rule is that legislation is presumed valid and will be sustained if the classification drawn by the statute is rationally related to a legitimate state interest.


Facts. Petitioner denied a special use permit for the operation of a group home for the mentally retarded, acting pursuant to a municipal zoning ordinance that required permits for such homes. Respondent purchased a building at 201 Featherston Street in Cleburne, Texas, with the intention to house thirteen mentally retarded individuals. Respondent submitted a special use permit application to the City, which was denied. Respondent filed suit in federal district court alleging that the ordinance was invalid on its face and as applied to Respondent because it discriminated against the mentally retarded in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. The district court found the ordinance to be constitutional. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed and held that mental retardation was a “quasi-suspect” classification, which required intermediate scrutiny. Intermediate scrutiny required that the ordinance substantially further an
important government interest. The court of appeals held that the ordinance did not substantially further any government interest. The Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari.

Issue. Was the ordinance on its face and as applied, constitutional?

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