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.

Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1241

33 Pages Posted: 24 Dec 2013 Last revised: 16 Aug 2016

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

Independent

Date Written: December 19, 2013

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Brito, Tonya L. and Anderson, Raymond Kirk and Wedgewood, Monica Ashley, Chronicle of a Debt Foretold: Zablocki v. Red Hail, 434 U.S. 374 (1978) (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. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2369948

Tonya L. Brito (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States

Institute for Legal Studies ( email )

Madison
United States

Institute for Research on Poverty ( email )

1180 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI 53706
United States

Raymond Kirk Anderson

University of Wisconsin School of Education ( email )

Monica Ashley Wedgewood

Independent

No Address Available

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