Chronicle of a Debt Foretold: Zablocki v. Red Hail, 434 U.S. 374 (1978)
Tonya L. Brito
University of Wisconsin Law School; Institute for Legal Studies; Institute for Research on Poverty
Raymond Kirk Anderson
University of Wisconsin School of Education
Monica Ashley Wedgewood
December 19, 2013
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.
Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1241
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.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 33
Keywords: Family Law, Indian, Native American Poverty, Poverty Law, Equality, Inequality, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Child Support, Justice, Legal History, Law and Society
Date posted: December 24, 2013 ; Last revised: August 16, 2016