process rights were violated is without merit.
B. Equal Protection
Smith also argues that the regulatory scheme violates the
equal protection rights of unmarried couples. He contends that
the regulations create a classification of unmarried
heterosexual couples and treats them differently from other
couples, namely married couples and homosexual couples living
together. Smith notes that married couples, while they also
receive reduced benefits during the marriage, are eligible for
individual benefits as soon as they become divorced. However,
according to Smith, unmarried but "holding out as married"
couples must separate from the same household for more than six
months before becoming eligible for individual benefits. In
addition, Smith argues, homosexual couples who live together in
the same way as unmarried heterosexual couples are not subject
to the reduced benefits.
The equal protection clause essentially requires that persons
similarly situated be treated alike. Cleburne v. Cleburne
Living Center, Inc., 473 U.S. 432, 439, 105 S.Ct. 3249,
3254, 87 L.Ed.2d 313 (1985). Legislation may make
classifications between persons similarly situated, however, if
the classification is rationally related to a legitimate
government interest. Id. at 440, 105 S.Ct. at 3254;
Ben-Shalom v. Marsh, 881 F.2d 454, 463 (7th Cir.
1989). This rationally related test is operative unless the
classification involves a suspect class or infringes on a
fundamental right. The classification based upon marital status
does not involve a suspect class or a fundamental right.
See Califano v. Jobst, 434 U.S. 47, 54, 98 S.Ct. 95,
99-100, 54 L.Ed.2d 228 (1977); Lindley for Lindley v.
Sullivan, 889 F.2d 124, 129-32 (7th Cir. 1989).
Given the deferential standard of rational relationship to a
legitimate government interest, the regulatory scheme at bar is
valid. Congress has determined that the benefits payable to
married couples or those living as a married couple should be
less than the benefits paid to individuals to reflect the
reduced cost of living. See H.R. Rep. No. 92-231, 92d
Cong., 2d Sess., reprinted at 1972 U.S.Code Cong. & Ad.News
5136. This most certainly is rationally related to the
government interest of providing disability benefits to those
in need on an equitable basis. Additionally, the requirement
that unmarried couples separate for six months before being
deemed individuals, whereas married couples are deemed
individuals as soon as they are legally divorced, is also
related to the same government interest. The interest in both
instances is determining when the relationship has ended, which
in turn determines need for individual benefits. The six month
waiting period is rationally related to this objective. While
the termination of a legal marriage is determined on a certain
date (i.e. divorce), the determination of a less-formal
marriage is not so easily pinpointed. The six month separation
gauge is certainly a rational one.
The fact that co-habitating homosexual couples are not
subject to reduced benefits also does not deprive Smith of
equal protection. Congress has determined that married couples
and those living together as though married have an economic
interdependence which permits reduced benefits. Congress did
not determine that any two persons co-habitating have such an
interdependence. Since homosexual couples cannot be legally
married, they are excluded from this classification. The
distinction cannot be said to be irrational. Accordingly,
Smith's equal protection argument is without merit as well.
For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiff's Motion for
Summary Reversal is DENIED, the Defendant's Motion for Summary
Affirmance is GRANTED, and the Clerk of this Court is directed
to enter judgment in favor of the Defendant and against the
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