Family Law Keyed to Weisberg

back
Topic /161
Griswold v. Connecticut

Citation. Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 85 S. Ct. 1678, 14 L. Ed. 2d 510, 1965 U.S. LEXIS 2282 (U.S. June 7, 1965)

Brief Fact Summary. Appellants were charged with violating a statute preventing the distribution of advice to married couples regarding the prevention of conception. Appellants claimed that the statute violated the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The right of a married couple to privacy is protected by the Constitution.

Facts. Appellant Griswold, Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut and Appellant Buxton, a licensed physician who served as Medical Director for the League at its Center in New Haven, were arrested and charged with giving information, instruction, and medical advice to married persons on means of preventing conception. Appellants were found guilty as accessories and fined $100 each. Appellants appealed on the theory that the accessory statute as applied violated the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Appellants claimed standing based on their professional relationship with the married people they advised.

Issue. Does the Constitution provide for a privacy right for married couples?

Held. The First Amendment has a penumbra where privacy is protected from governmental intrusion, which although not expressly included in the Amendment, is necessary to make the express guarantees meaningful. The association of marriage is a privacy right older than the Bill of Rights, and the State’s effort to control marital activities in this case is unnecessarily broad and therefore impinges on protected Constitutional freedoms.

Dissent. Justice Stewart and Justice Black. Although the law is silly, it is not unconstitutional. The citizens of Connecticut should use their rights under the 9th and 10th Amendment to convince their elected representatives to repeal it if the law does not conform to their community standards.

Concurrence. Justice Goldberg, the Chief Justice, and Justice Brennan. The right to privacy in marriage is so basic and fundamental that to allow it to be infringed because it is not specifically addressed in the first eight amendments is to give the 9th Amendment no effect.
Justice Harlan. The relevant statute violates the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment because if violates the basic values implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.

Discussion. The right to privacy in marriage is not specifically protected in either the Bill of Rights or the Constitution. Nonetheless, it is a right so firmly rooted in tradition that its protection is mandated by various Constitutional Amendments, including the 1st, 9th and 14th Amendments.