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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

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.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More