Brief Fact Summary. The Petitioners, Boddie and others (Petitioners), brought suit against the Respondent, Connecticut’s (Respondents) divorce policies, which on average cost $60 per litigant. The Petitioners represent married indigents who cannot afford a divorce.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. If marriage is a fundamental right available to all citizens, divorce must be available to all citizens as well.
Issue. Does discriminating against indigents in applying for divorce violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution)?
Held. Yes. Appeals Court ruling reversed.
Justice John Marshall Harlan (J. Harlan) notes that since marriage is a fundamental right in our society the government must show a compelling interest to discriminate in the application of. Conversely, if marriage is a fundamental right totally controlled by the State, divorce must be in the same category.
Requiring payment of fees to apply for divorce creates two classes of individuals: those who can pay the fee and those who cannot. The State cannot offer a compelling interest to maintain this distinction. As such, the requirements are unconstitutional.
The Court held: Given the basic position of the marriage relationship in this society's hierarchy of values and the concomitant state monopolization of the means for legally dissolving this relationship, due process does prohibit a State from denying, solely because of inability to pay, access to its courts to individuals who seek judicial dissolution of their marriages.View Full Point of Law