Fourth of July in the United States means more than just fireworks, barbeques, and outdoor picnics. It is a day to remember our nation's independence and the individual rights we are provided as outlined in the Constitution. One of these rights that is most significant is the right to marriage and the right to raise a family without interference. Something that we take for granted on a daily basis is that our country and our Constitution respect the institution of marriage and the family and hold both to a high standard, so that each individual citizen has the right to conduct themselves according to their own rules in their own home.
The Supreme Court stated in the 1977 case of Moore v. East Cleveland that the "Constitution protects the sanctity of the family precisely because the institution of the family is deeply rooted in the Nation's history and tradition." In this case, the Supreme Court decided to allow protection for a family with extended family members living with them in violation of a housing ordinance, stating that related individuals could not be limited by an ordinance in choosing which related family members could live under their roof. Specifically it was determined in this case that when government is intruding on choices dealing with family living arrangements, the usual deference to the legislature in determining the rationale for passing that particular law or ordinance is not appropriate, and the Court has to examine the governmental interest(s) and if they are actually being served by the current law/ordinance.
Another case, Yoder v. Wisconsin, upheld the sanctity of an Amish family's decision to remove their children from public school in violation of a state law requiring children to attend school. The Court decided this case on the basis of the First Amendment and Free Exercise of Religion, as well as determined that parents should have the substantive due process rights to make fundamental decisions affecting the lives of their children without government interference.
In the case of Troxel v. Granville, the Supreme Court was faced with another family-related issue. Specifically, this case dealt with Grandparents and third parties having custody rights over children. The law at issue was a Washington state law allowing any third party to petition the state court for child visitation rights over parental objections. The Supreme Court struck down this law, stating that "the interest of parents in the care, custody and control of their children--is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court," meaning that a law could not force visitation rights by a third party or by the child's grandparents if the parents of that child did not consent to this visitation. This case again reinforced a parent's right to raise their children in any way they see fit, and protected the parent's right to make his/her own independent decisions regarding their own children.
As you are spending time with your own family this July 4th, do not forget that our Nation's Constitution provides us with the vast rights to raise our children and associate with our own family members in any way we like. This is a right that is integral to our society, but is something we must never take for granted.
From all of us at Lisa Marie Vari & Associates, Happy Fourth of July to you and your family! We hope you spend this holiday doing the things you love with the people you love most!