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King v. Smith

392 U.S. 309 (1968)

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King v. Smith

United States Supreme Court

392 U.S. 309 (1968)

Facts

The Social Security Act of 1935 established the Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) program to reduce child poverty. The AFDC program provided aid to dependent children who had a parent who was continually absent from the home. The Alabama Department of Pensions and Security promulgated a regulation that denied AFDC payments to needy children if the children’s mother cohabited (i.e., engaged in sexual relations) with a substitute father. The man could be any single or married able-bodied man. The cohabiting could take place inside or outside the children’s home. The man did not need to have a parental duty to support the children or the ability to provide financial support. The purpose of the rule was to discourage immorality and illegitimacy among mothers. Sylvester Smith (plaintiff) was the mother of four children. The children’s fathers were either dead or completely absent. The children were eligible for aid but for the substitute-father regulation. Smith’s children were denied aid because a married man, Williams, had gone to Smith’s home on weekends to engage in sexual relations. Williams was not the father of any of the children, was not legally obligated to support any of the children, and was not willing or able to support them. Local authorities determined the Smith family was ineligible for AFDC funds due to the presence of a substitute father. The determination was appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Warren, C.J.)

Concurrence (Douglas, J.)

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