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Has any federal or state law ever been struck down because it had no rational basis, in a case where that was the standard for constitutionality?

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    One state legislature tried to pass a law defining pi as 3.2 exactly, to simplify mathematics, which was fortunately killed off before it got onto the statute books.
    – Neil_UK
    Oct 19, 2022 at 8:03
  • 1
    3.2? Based on simple rounding, wouldn't it be 3.1? Oct 19, 2022 at 15:57
  • It wasn't based on rounding. It was based on "squaring the circle". en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indiana_Pi_Bill
    – Doug Deden
    Oct 19, 2022 at 16:31

2 Answers 2

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The following article found seventeen cases between 1971 and 2014 when the Supreme Court, purportedly applying rational basis scrutiny, held that the law in question violated the equal protection clause.

Holoszyc-Pimentel, Raphael. "Reconciling rational-basis review: when does rational basis bite?" New York University Law Review 90: 2070-2117 (2015)

The article's introduction appendix to the article gives brief summaries of all seventeen. (As well as one extra case, Logan v. Zimmerman Brush Co. in which the majority opinion did not mention rational-basis scrutiny, but two concurring opinions, signed by a total of six justices, did.) The author specifically cites Romer v. Evans as mentioned in bdb484's answer. Another quotable example is USDA v. Moreno, 413 U.S. 528 (1973), which examined a provision that denied food stamps to households where unrelated people were living together (e.g. hippie communes). Its second-to-last sentence:

But the classification here in issue is not only "imprecise," it is wholly without any rational basis.

Incidentally, Holoszyc-Pimentel's thesis is that in these cases, the Court was not truly applying rational-basis scrutiny, but some other slightly stronger standard, which the author calls "rational basis with bite".

The full list of cases from the article:

  1. United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013);

  2. Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996);

  3. Quinn v. Millsap, 491 U.S. 95 (1989);

  4. Allegheny Pittsburgh Coal Co. v. Cty. Comm’n, 488 U.S. 336 (1989);

  5. City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Ctr., Inc., 473 U.S. 432 (1985);

  6. Hooper v. Bernalillo Cty. Assessor, 472 U.S. 612 (1985);

  7. Williams v. Vermont, 472 U.S. 14 (1985);

  8. Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Ward, 470 U.S. 869 (1985);

  9. Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982);

  10. Zobel v. Williams, 457 U.S. 55 (1982);

  11. U.S. Dep’t of Agric. v. Moreno, 413 U.S. 528 (1973);

  12. James v. Strange, 407 U.S. 128 (1972);

  13. Jackson v. Indiana, 406 U.S. 715 (1972);

  14. Weber v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 406 U.S. 164 (1972);

  15. Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438 (1972);

  16. Lindsey v. Normet, 405 U.S. 56 (1972);

  17. Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971).

  18. Logan v. Zimmerman Brush Co., 455 U.S. 422 (1982)

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Yes. The Supreme Court struck down Colorado's ban on enacting laws to extend legal protections on the basis of sexual orientation as having no rational basis. Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996).

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