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Case Basics
Docket No. 
Willam Orr
Lillian Orr
(argued the cause for appellant William Orr)
(argued the cause for appellee Lillian Orr)
Facts of the Case 

William and Lillian Orr were divorced in February 1974. William Orr was ordered to pay monthly alimony of $1,240. Lillian Orr sued William Orr for lack of payments in July 1976. Alabama's alimony statutes only required husbands to pay alimony, but not wives. William Orr challenged these statutes as unconstitutional. The Lee County Circuit Court ruled against him. The Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama affirmed this ruling. The Supreme Court of Alabama granted a writ of certiorari that was later dismissed.


(1) Does the Supreme Court have jurisdiction over William Orr's challenge?

(2) Do Alabama's alimony statutes violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Decision: 6 votes for Orr, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Equal Protection

Yes and yes. In a 6-3 opinion, the Court established its jurisdiction over the question and ruled that Alabama's statutes were unconstitutional. In writing for the majority, Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. maintained that under the Equal Protection Clause, "classifications by gender must serve important governmental objectives." The Court rejected several objectives proposed by the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, holding that gender was not an "accurate proxy" for financial need. Justices Harry A. Blackmun and John Paul Stevens each wrote concurring opinions.

Cite this Page
ORR v. ORR. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1978/1978_77_1119>.
ORR v. ORR, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1978/1978_77_1119 (last visited August 26, 2015).
"ORR v. ORR," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1978/1978_77_1119.