Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618; 89 S. Ct. 1322; 22 L. Ed. 2d 600 (1969)

Facts—Statutory provisions in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia denied welfare assistance to persons who were residents and met all other eligibility requirements except that they had not resided within the jurisdiction for at least a year immediately preceding their applications for assistance.

Question—Does this law limiting welfare payments create a classification that constitutes discrimination involving denial of equal protection of the laws?


ReasonsJ. Brennan (6–3). The purpose of inhibiting migration into a state by needy persons is constitutionally impermissible. Our constitutional concepts of personal liberty require that all citizens be free to travel throughout the country without unreasonable restrictions. Where the right of interstate movement is involved, the constitutionality of a statute must be judged by the stricter standard of whether the statute promotes a compelling state interest. In the current instance the waiting period requirement was held clearly to violate the equal protection clause. In the matter of the District of Columbia, since only states are bound by the equal protection clause, the one-year requirement was held to violate the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.

C.J. Warren and J. Stewart both wrote dissents arguing that Congress had approved residency requirements for welfare applicants and questioning the application of the “compelling state interest” doctrine to such an issue.

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