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Orr v. Orr

Citation. 440 U.S. 268, 99 S. Ct. 1102, 59 L. Ed. 2d 306, 1979 U.S.
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Brief Fact Summary.

Laws of the State of Alabama would require men in some cases to pay alimony on divorce, but women were in no case required to pay alimony.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Without an important state interest and substantially related means, the State may not classify on the basis of sex.


This case arises out of a petition for divorce. The Alabama courts would review the financial status of both partners during the proceedings to determine whether or not the husband owed alimony to the wife. The husband in this particular divorce argued that the law denied him equal protection.


May the state restrict alimony payments in a manner that discriminates on sex?


In the present case, the State of Alabama argues that sex is a proxy for need of financial assistance. As the finances of both parties to the divorce are examined to determine whether a husband owes alimony, this assertion cannot even support a claim of administrative convenience.
Because a gender-neutral classification serves the State’s purposes just as well as a gender-based classification, the State cannot be permitted to classify on the basis of sex.


Orr v. Orr is a very straightforward decision. The State cannot argue that a classification is a proxy for financial need when financial need is a necessary determination in the particular case to begin. Combined with the intermediate scrutiny afforded gender classification legislation, the statute is clearly unconstitutional.

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