Federal Visions of Private Family Support

38 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2014

See all articles by Laura A. Rosenbury

Laura A. Rosenbury

University of Florida Levin College of Law

Date Written: November 10, 2014


This Article offers a new perspective on the relationship between family and federalism by analyzing why the government — whether state or federal — recognizes family at all. The Article examines the current balance between state and federal authority over family by reviewing the Supreme Court’s recent decisions in Astrue v. Capato, upholding the Social Security Administration’s deference to states’ intestacy laws when distributing benefits to posthumously conceived children, and United States v. Windsor, in which the Court struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Although each decision affirmed the states’ primary role in defining family status, developments before and after Capato and Windsor reveal that federal agencies and courts are increasingly promulgating federal definitions of family. In particular, federal courts have rejected many states’ definitions of marriage post-Windsor. This Article argues that these developments are not motivated by a rejection of federalism or the diversity and pluralism that is thought to flow therefrom. Instead, federalism remains an important value so long as it does not displace the underlying reason for legal recognition of family: the encouragement of private family support.

Keywords: federalism, family, marriage, parentage, inheritance, dependency

Suggested Citation

Rosenbury, Laura A., Federal Visions of Private Family Support (November 10, 2014). Vanderbilt Law Review, Vol. 67, No. 6, 2014, Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper 14-12-02, University of Florida Levin College of Law Research Paper No. 15-5, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2539262

Laura A. Rosenbury (Contact Author)

University of Florida Levin College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 117625
Gainesville, FL 32611-7625
United States

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