News / USA

    Historic US Court Case Inspired Equal Rights for Both Genders

    Reed v Reed triggered landmark 1971 Supreme Court decision

    Reed v Reed led to the landmark US Supreme Court decision which established that the government could not discriminate on the basis of gender, spurring sweeping changes throughout American society.
    Reed v Reed led to the landmark US Supreme Court decision which established that the government could not discriminate on the basis of gender, spurring sweeping changes throughout American society.

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Reed v Reed is a U.S. Supreme Court case many have never heard of. Yet, it triggered the landmark 1971 decision that declared it unconstitutional to discriminate against a woman solely because of her gender.

    In the wake of that historic ruling, hundreds of laws were changed, giving women - and men - unprecedented rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

    Reed v Reed

    Sally Reed, a divorced, single mother, started it all when she challenged an Idaho state law which prohibited her from administering her dead son’s estate because she was a woman. The law at the time stipulated that, when two people were equally entitled to administer a deceased person’s estate, males must be given preference over females.

    Current US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued Reed v Reed before the high court as a young lawyer.
    Current US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued Reed v Reed before the high court as a young lawyer.

    Reed fought the case against her ex-husband through every level of the courts until it ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously in her favor. She was represented before the high court by a young lawyer named Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who would later become a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

    Ginsburg, then a professor of law, was the principal author of the brief on behalf of Sally Reed.

    “Sally Reed thought that this law was not just, and, this is the most remarkable thing, she had faith in the legal system of the United States to right the wrong that she thought had been done to her,” says Ginsburg. “So when this case was going to the trial court, the appeals court, the Supreme Court in the state of Idaho, people were noticing it, and thinking; ‘this is the case that will enable the Supreme Court to understand the pernicious effects of making laws on the assumption that women are this way and men are that way.’ And that prediction proved correct.”

    Reed turns 40

    At a recent panel discussion in Washington marking the 40th anniversary of the case, Ginsburg said the landmark decision, establishing that the government could not discriminate on the basis of gender, led to changes throughout American society.

    A recent panel discussion in Washington marked the 40th anniversary of Reed v Reed.
    A recent panel discussion in Washington marked the 40th anniversary of Reed v Reed.

    “In the wake of Reed, hundreds of laws, state and federal, were changed. Congress went through all the provisions of the U.S. code and changed almost all that had overt gender classifications,” she said.

    For example, Congress passed laws banning employment discrimination against pregnant women, and prohibited sex discrimination in education programs that receive federal support, including sports.

    Not for women only

    But women weren't the only ones to benefit from the new standard of equal protection under the law.

    Emily Martin, vice president and general counsel at the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, told the panel's audience that the revised laws gave men new rights as well.

    “For example, in 1975, in another case brought by Ginsburg, the Supreme Court opened the door for thousands of widowed fathers to receive social security benefits that before were only available to widowed mothers of dependent children.”

    Reed v Reed - 40 years later

    According to Ginsburg, gender barriers facing women in the workplace today have almost completely disappeared.

    “The closed-door era has ended,” she says. “I think there’s no occupation that is closed to women. I mean once it was lawyering, bar tending, policing, firefighters, all those jobs were off limits to women. And now there is almost no occupation that is not open to women.”

    Ginsburg - the second woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court - says what remains now is something a ruling cannot mandate; for American society to be open to the idea that women, and men, need a balance between work and family.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora