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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid