Brief Fact Summary. Certain states enacted statutes denying welfare assistance to residents who had not lived in their jurisdictions for at least one year. The constitutionality of the statutes is brought into question.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. One year waiting requirements for eligibility to a State’s welfare benefits violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment inasmuch as they impose upon the fundamental right to travel.
Issue. Did the laws restricting welfare benefits to those who had lived in a location for at least one year constitute a violation of equal protection?
Held. Yes. The lower court is affirmed.
The effect of the waiting period is to create two classes of people from a group of similarly situated residents on the basis of whether a resident has lived in a State for a least one year. This type of distinction, absent a compelling governmental interest, constitutes an unconstitutional lack of equal protection of the laws which the Fourteenth Amendment forbids.
Moreover, the objective of the waiting period, deterring the in-migration of indigents into states, is patently unconstitutional. The nature of our federal union and our constitutional concepts of personal liberty coalesce to require that all citizens be free to travel throughout our land uninhibited by laws that restrict this type of movement.
The states cannot justify the policy on the grounds that it keeps indigents out who would otherwise move to a state solely to obtain benefits. Such a person is no less deserving of the right to move than is a mother who moves solely for the sake of securing better educational facilities for her children.
The policy cannot be justified on the grounds that it distinguishes between new and old residents based on the local tax contributions each has made to their community. Otherwise, the same reasoning could be used to deny newcomers of schools, parks, firemen and police services, which would be clearly unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The justification that the waiting periods promote administrative efficiency cannot withstand judicial scrutiny, because (1) saving governmental resources is not a compelling governmental interest, and (2) less drastic means could have been employed to prevent the fraudulent receipt of benefits.
We are all citizens of the United States; and, as members of the same community, must have the right to pass and repass through every part of it without interruption, as freely as in our own States.View Full Point of Law