Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas


The village passed an ordinance stating that single family residences could only be occupied by “[o]ne or more persons related by blood, adoption, or marriage, living and cooking together as a single housekeeping unit.”  The ordinance gave an exception to this rule for only one other member of non-blood relation.  Appellants were six college roommates who sought to declare the ordinance invalid as a violation of their 14th amendment rights.


Whether a law that restricts occupancy to 1 other family member and those of blood relation violates the equal protection clause.


No, reversed.  The court stated that the law only needs to only be rationally related to a legitimate state interest because the law involved no fundamental right violated by the defendant.  In prior cases the court held that banning the family from living together through an ordinance does violate the equal protection clause; but this law does not restrict the family class, which is a protected class.  Therefore, there is no fundamental right being abrogated by the law.  Keeping quietness of a community is a legitimate interest to be asserted by the ordinance.


This law falls within the right of association and is violative of the court’s established right to privacy.  Under the constitution, there is an inferred right to privacy which involves the right to associate with whomever you please.  There is a legitimate government interest in occupancy limits.  However, citizens’ fundamental rights are violated when the ordinance says who can and cannot occupy the dwelling.

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