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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid