Chronicle of a Debt Foretold: Zablocki v. Red Hail, 434 U.S. 374 (1978)
The Poverty Law Canon: Exploring the Major Cases edited by Marie A. Failinger and Ezra Rosser, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2016. Pgs. 232-255.
33 Pages Posted: 24 Dec 2013 Last revised: 16 Aug 2016
Date Written: December 19, 2013
Zablocki v. Red Hail is a canonical case in family law jurisprudence. One of the few Supreme Court decisions addressing the fundamental right to marry, the case involves a successful challenge to Wisconsin's "permission to marry" statute. However, the conventional understanding of the case addresses only part of the story. The narrative threads uncovered as part of this oral history research study reveal a more multifaceted and complicated story than has been previously appreciated. The story behind Zablocki v. Red Hail spans the 1970s in Milwaukee, a period of great inequality and dynamic social change. It also engages the American Indian experience in the United States, particularly the experience of urban Indians who have been uprooted from their native lands and disconnected from their heritage and history. Finally, although Zablocki v. Red Hail was a significant constitutional victory, the ruling did not secure justice for Roger Red Hail because the pursuit of a rights-based claim left standing an economically unjust (and apparently unending) child support order.
Keywords: Family Law, Indian, Native American Poverty, Poverty Law, Equality, Inequality, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Child Support, Justice, Legal History, Law and Society
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