Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
reasonable basis standard of equal protection adjudication developed in the main in cases involving state regulation of business and industry.
The administration of public welfare assistance, by contrast, involves the most basic economic needs of impoverished human beings. We recognize the dramatically real factual difference between the cited cases and this one, but we can find no basis for applying a different constitutional standard. 1 Thus, a formula for dispensing aid to dependent children that imposed an upper limit on the amount one family could receive, regardless of the number of children in the family, so that the more children in a family the less money per child was received, was found to be rationally related to the legitimate state interest in encouraging employment and in maintaining an equitable balance between welfare families and the families of the working poor. 2 Similarly, a state welfare assistance formula that, after calculation of individual need, provided less of the determined amount to families with dependent children than to those persons in the aged and infirm categories did not violate equal protection because a state could reasonably believe that the aged and infirm are the least able to bear the hardships of an inadequate standard of living, and that the apportionment of limited funds was therefore rational. 3 Although reiterating that this standard of review is
not a toothless one, the Court has nonetheless sustained a variety of distinctions on the basis that Congress could rationally have believed them justified, 4 acting to invalidate a provision only once, and then on the premise that Congress was actuated by an improper purpose. 5
Similarly, the Court has rejected the contention that access to housing, despite its great importance, is of any fundamental interest that would place a bar upon the legislature’s giving landlords a much more favorable and summary process of judicially controlled eviction actions than was available in other kinds of litigation. 6
However, a statute that prohibited the dispensing of contraceptive devices to single persons for birth control but not for disease prevention purposes and that contained no limitation on dispensation to married persons was held to violate the Equal Protection Clause on several grounds. On the basis of the right infringed by the limitation, the Court saw no rational basis for the state to distinguish between married and unmarried persons. Similarly, the exemption from the prohibition for purposes of disease prevention nullified the argument that the rational basis for the law was the deterrence of fornication, the rationality of which the Court doubted in any case. 7 Also denying equal protection was a law affording married parents, divorced parents, and unmarried mothers an opportunity to be heard with regard to the issue of their fitness to continue or to take custody of their children, an opportunity the Court decided was mandated by due process, but presuming the unfitness of the unmarried father and giving him no hearing. 8