United States Department of Agriculture v. Moreno
Section 3(e) of the Food Stamp Act of 1964, as amended in 1971, generally excludes from participation in the food stamp program any household containing an individual who is unrelated to any other household member. The Secretary of Agriculture issued regulations thereunder rendering ineligible for participation in the program any "household" whose members are not "all related to each other." Congress stated that the purposes of the Act were "to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation's population and raise levels of nutrition among low-income households...[and] that increased utilization of food in establishing and maintaining adequate national levels of nutrition will promote the distribution...of our agricultural abundance and will strengthen our agricultural economy...." The District Court held that the "unrelated person" provision of § 3 (e) creates an irrational classification in violation of the equal protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
Held: The legislative classification here involved cannot be sustained, the classification being clearly irrelevant to the stated purposes of the Act and not rationally furthering any other legitimate governmental interest. In practical operation, the Act excludes, not those who are "likely to abuse the program," but, rather, only those who so desperately need aid that they cannot even afford to alter their living arrangements so as to retain their eligibility. Pp. 533-538.
345 F.Supp. 310, affirmed.
Brennan, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Douglas, Stewart, White, Marshall, Blackmun, and Powell, JJ., joined. Douglas, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 538. Rehnquist, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Burger, C. J., joined, post, p. 545.
A. Raymond Randolph, Jr., argued the cause for appellants. With him on the briefs were Solicitor General Griswold, Assistant Attorney General Wood, Walter H. Fleischer, and William Kanter.
Ronald F. Pollack argued the cause for appellees. With him on the brief was Roger A. Schwartz.