When a statutory classification significantly interferes with the exercise of a fundamental right, it cannot be upheld unless it is supported by sufficiently important state interests and is closely tailored to effectuate only those interests.
Wisconsin residents were prevented under Wis. Stat. § 245.10 (1973) from marrying if they were behind in their child support obligations or if the children to whom they were obligated were likely to become public charges. In a class action brought by the residents for violation of equal protectionun, the county clerks contended that the statute assisted the state to counsel residents on their financial obligations and protected the children to whom support was owed. The district court ruled that the stature was in violation of equal protection. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Does the statute violate equal protection?
The Court held that the statute violated equal protection in that it directly and substantially interfered with the fundamental right to marry without being closely tailored to effectuate the state's interests. The Court noted that other future financial obligations were not curtailed, only those that might be associated with marriage, and further found that the effect of the statute was that more children would be born outside of marriage.