Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
The doctrine of the “right to travel” actually encompasses three separate rights, of which two have been notable for the uncertainty of their textual support. The first is the right of a citizen to move freely between states, a right venerable for its longevity, but still lacking a clear doctrinal basis.1 The second, expressly addressed by the first sentence of Article IV, provides a citizen of one state who is temporarily visiting another state the “Privileges and Immunities” of a citizen of the latter state.2 The third is the right of a new arrival to a state, who establishes citizenship in that state, to enjoy the same rights and benefits as other state citizens. This right is most often invoked in challenges to durational residency requirements, which require that persons reside in a state for a specified period of time before taking advantage of the benefits of that state’s citizenship.
Durational Residency Requirements
Challenges to durational residency requirements have traditionally been made under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In 1999, however, the Court approved a doctrinal shift, so that state laws that distinguished between their own citizens, based on how long they had been in the state, would be evaluated instead under the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.3 The Court did not, however, question the continuing efficacy of the earlier cases.
A durational residency requirement creates two classes of persons: those who have been within the state for the prescribed period and those who have not.4 But persons who have moved recently, at least from state to state,5 have exercised a right protected by the Constitution, and the durational residency classification either deters the exercise of that right or penalizes those who have exercised it.6 Any such classification is invalid “unless shown to be necessary to promote a compelling governmental interest.” 7 The constitutional right to travel has long been recognized,8 but it is only relatively recently that the strict standard of equal protection review has been applied to nullify durational residency requirements.
Thus, in Shapiro v. Thompson,9 durational residency requirements conditioning eligibility for welfare assistance on one year’s residence in the state10 were voided. If the purpose of the requirements was to inhibit migration by needy persons into the state or to bar the entry of those who came from low-paying states to higher-paying ones in order to collect greater benefits, the Court said, the purpose was impermissible.11 If, on the other hand, the purpose was to serve certain administrative and related governmental objectives—the facilitation of the planning of budgets, the provision of an objective test of residency, minimization of opportunity for fraud, and encouragement of early entry of new residents into the labor force—then the requirements were rationally related to the purpose but they were not compelling enough to justify a classification that infringed a fundamental interest.12 In Dunn v. Blumstein,13 where the durational residency requirements denied the franchise to newcomers, such administrative justifications were found constitutionally insufficient to justify the classification.14 The Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was the basis for striking down a California law that limited welfare benefits for California citizens who had resided in the state for less than a year to the level of benefits that they would have received in the state of their prior residence.15
However, a state one-year durational residency requirement for the initiation of a divorce proceeding was sustained in Sosna v. Iowa.16 Although it is not clear what the precise basis of the ruling is, it appears that the Court found that the state’s interest in requiring that those who seek a divorce from its courts be genuinely attached to the state and its desire to insulate divorce decrees from the likelihood of collateral attack justified the requirement.17 Similarly, durational residency requirements for lower in-state tuition at public colleges have been held constitutionally justifiable, again, however, without a clear statement of reason.18 More recently, the Court has attempted to clarify these cases by distinguishing situations where a state citizen is likely to “consume” benefits within a state’s borders (such as the provision of welfare) from those where citizens of other states are likely to establish residency just long enough to acquire some portable benefit, and then return to their original domicile to enjoy them (such as obtaining a divorce decree or paying the in-state tuition rate for a college education).19
A state scheme for returning to its residents a portion of the income earned from the vast oil deposits discovered within Alaska foundered upon the formula for allocating the dividends; that is, each adult resident received one unit of return for each year of residency subsequent to 1959, the first year of Alaska’s statehood. The law thus created fixed, permanent distinctions between an ever-increasing number of classes of bona fide residents based on how long they had been in the state. The differences between the durational residency cases previously decided did not alter the bearing of the right to travel principle upon the distribution scheme, but the Court’s decision went off on the absence of any permissible purpose underlying the apportionment classification and it thus failed even the rational basis test.20
Still unresolved are issues such as durational residency requirements for occupational licenses and other purposes.21 But this line of cases does not apply to state residency requirements themselves, as distinguished from durational provisions,22 and the cases do not inhibit the states when, having reasons for doing so, they bar travel by certain persons.23
- Saenz v. Roe, 526 U.S. 489 (1999). “For the purposes of this case, we need not identify the source of [the right to travel] in the text of the Constitution. The right of ‘free ingress and regress to and from’ neighboring states which was expressly mentioned in the text of the Article of Confederation, may simply have been ‘conceived from the beginning to be a necessary concomitant of the stronger Union the Constitution created.’” Id. at 501 (citations omitted).
- Paul v. Virginia, 75 U.S. (8 Wall.) 168 (1869) ( “without some provision . . . removing from citizens of each State the disabilities of alienage in other States, and giving them equality of privilege with citizens of those States, the Republic would have constituted little more than a league of States; it would not have constituted the Union which now exists.” ).
- Saenz v. Roe, 526 U.S. 489, 502–03 (1999).
- Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 334 (1972). Because the right to travel is implicated by state distinctions between residents and nonresidents, the relevant constitutional provision is the Privileges and Immunities Clause, Article IV, § 2, cl. 1.
- Intrastate travel is protected to the extent that the classification fails to meet equal protection standards in some respect. Compare Hadnott v. Amos, 320 F. Supp. 107 (M.D. Ala. 1970) (three-judge court), aff’d. per curiam, 405 U.S. 1035 (1972), with Arlington County Bd. v. Richards, 434 U.S. 5 (1977). The same principle applies in the commerce clause cases, in which discrimination may run against in-state as well as out-of-state concerns. Cf. Dean Milk Co. v. City of Madison, 340 U.S. 349 (1951).
- Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618, 629–31, 638 (1969); Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 338–42 (1972); Memorial Hospital v. Maricopa County, 415 U.S. 250 (1974); Jones v. Helms, 452 U.S. 412, 420–21 (1981). See also Oregon v. Mitchell, 400 U.S. 112, 236–39 (1970) (Justices Brennan, White, and Marshall), and id. at 285–92 (Justices Stewart and Blackmun and Chief Justice Burger).
- Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618, 634 (1969) (emphasis by Court); Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365, 375–76 (1971).
- Crandall v. Nevada, 73 U.S. (6 Wall.) 35 (1868); Edwards v. California, 314 U.S. 160 (1941) (both cases in context of direct restrictions on travel). The source of the right to travel and the reasons for reliance on the Equal Protection Clause are questions puzzled over and unresolved by the Court. United States v. Guest, 383 U.S. 745, 758, 759 (1966), and id. at 763–64 (Justice Harlan concurring and dissenting), id. at 777 n.3 (Justice Brennan concurring and dissenting); Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618, 629–31 (1969), and id. at 671 (Justice Harlan dissenting); San Antonio School Dist. v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 31–32 (1973); Jones v. Helms, 452 U.S. 412, 417–19 (1981); Zobel v. Williams, 457 U.S. 55, 60 & n.6 (1982), and id. at 66–68 (Justice Brennan concurring), 78-81 (Justice O’Connor concurring).
- 394 U.S. 618 (1969).
- The durational residency provision established by Congress for the District of Columbia was also voided. 394 U.S. at 641–42.
- 394 U.S. at 627–33. Gaddis v. Wyman, 304 F. Supp. 717 (N.D.N.Y. 1969), aff’d sub nom. Wyman v. Bowens, 397 U.S. 49 (1970), struck down a provision construed so as to bar only persons who came into the state solely to obtain welfare assistance.
- 394 U.S. at 633–38. Shapiro was reaffirmed in Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365 (1971) (striking down durational residency requirements for aliens applying for welfare assistance), and in Memorial Hospital v. Maricopa County, 415 U.S. 250 (1974) (voiding requirement of one year’s residency in county as condition to indigent’s receiving nonemergency hospitalization or medical care at county’s expense). When Connecticut and New York reinstituted the requirements, pleading a financial emergency as the compelling state interest, they were summarily rebuffed. Rivera v. Dunn, 329 F. Supp. 554 (D. Conn. 1971), aff’d per curiam, 404 U.S. 1054 (1972); Lopez v. Wyman, Civ. No. 1971-308 (W.D.N.Y. 1971), aff’d per curiam, 404 U.S. 1055 (1972). The source of the funds, state or federal, is irrelevant to application of the principle. Pease v. Hansen, 404 U.S. 70 (1971).
- 405 U.S. 330 (1972). But see Marston v. Lewis, 410 U.S. 679 (1973), and Burns v. Fortson, 410 U.S. 686 (1973). Durational residency requirements of five and seven years respectively for candidates for elective office were sustained in Kanapaux v. Ellisor, 419 U.S. 891 (1974), and Sununu v. Stark, 420 U.S. 958 (1975).
- For additional discussion of durational residence as a qualification to vote, see Voter Qualifications, supra.
- Saenz v. Roe, 526 U.S. 489, 505 (1999).
- 419 U.S. 393 (1975). Justices Marshall and Brennan dissented on the merits. Id. at 418.
- 419 U.S. at 409. But the Court also indicated that the plaintiff was not absolutely barred from the state courts, but merely required to wait for access (which was true in the prior cases as well and there held immaterial), and that possibly the state interests in marriage and divorce were more exclusive and thus more immune from federal constitutional attack than were the matters at issue in the previous cases. The Court also did not indicate whether it was using strict or traditional scrutiny.
- Starns v. Malkerson, 326 F. Supp. 234 (D. Minn. 1970), aff’d per curiam, 401 U.S. 985 (1971). Cf. Vlandis v. Kline, 412 U.S. 441, 452 & n.9 (1973), and id. at 456, 464, 467 (dicta). In Memorial Hospital v. Maricopa County, 415 U.S. 250, 256 (1974), the Court, noting the results, stated that “some waiting periods . . . may not be penalties” and thus would be valid.
- Saenz v. Roe, 526 U.S. at 505.
- Zobel v. Williams, 457 U.S. 55 (1982). Somewhat similar was the Court’s invalidation on equal protection grounds of a veterans preference for state employment limited to persons who were state residents when they entered military service; four Justices also thought the preference penalized the right to travel. Attorney General of New York v. Soto-Lopez, 476 U.S. 898 (1986).
- La Tourette v. McMaster, 248 U.S. 465 (1919), upholding a two-year residence requirement to become an insurance broker, must be considered of questionable validity. Durational periods for admission to the practice of law or medicine or other professions have evoked differing responses by lower courts.
- E.g., McCarthy v. Philadelphia Civil Service Comm’n, 424 U.S. 645 (1976) (ordinance requiring city employees to be and to remain city residents upheld). See Memorial Hospital v. Maricopa County, 415 U.S. 250, 255 (1974). See also Martinez v. Bynum, 461 U.S. 321 (1983) (bona fide residency requirement for free tuition to public schools).
- Jones v. Helms, 452 U.S. 412 (1981) (statute made it a misdemeanor to abandon a dependent child but a felony to commit the offense and then leave the state).
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