We’re excited to have Allen Derr, attorney who argued for Sally Reed in the landmark Reed v Reed case, joining the audience tomorrow for a special panel to mark the 40th anniversary of the case. The panel will be discussing the past and future of women’s legal rights under the Equal Protection Clause and you can register to join the live webcast here: http://action.nwlc.org/reedvreed
You can learn more about the Reed v Reed case here and also, read an article from the Idaho Statesman about Mr. Derr coming to Washington, D.C. for the event: Read more »
In 1971, the United States Supreme Court invalidated an Idaho law that required the selection of a man over a woman to serve as administrator of an estate when both were equally qualified. The landmark Reed v. Reed decision, 404 U.S. 71 (1971), marked the first time in history that the Court applied the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to strike down a law that discriminated against women.
Background of the Reed v. Reed Case
The woman who challenged Idaho’s discriminatory statute was Sally Reed, a single mother who earned a living by caring for disabled people in her home. The case began when her teenage son Skip died tragically. According to Sally, her ex-husband, Cecil Reed, was an abusive husband and father who deserted the family when their son was only three or four years old. After their divorce, Sally raised Skip during his “tender years,” but Cecil was awarded partial custody of Skip when he reached his teens. During one of his visits, Skip was found dead in his father’s basement, having apparently shot himself with his father’s rifle. Skip’s death was determined a suicide, but Sally was suspicious because Cecil had taken out a life insurance policy on the boy. Because Skip had died without a will, Sally filed a petition to be appointed administrator of his estate, which consisted of only $495 and a few personal belongings. Cecil Reed put in a rival application. Read more »
Only forty years ago, numerous federal and state laws treated men and women differently, to women’s grave disadvantage. It was not until Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971), the landmark case decided forty years ago this month, that the Supreme Court began to strike down discriminatory laws and policies on the ground that they denied women – and men- the Equal Protection of the law that is guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
In the decision ina case entitled Frontiero v. Richardson, 431 U.S. 677 (1973), Justice Brennan wrote that “There can be no doubt that our Nation has had a long and unfortunate history of sex discrimination.Traditionally, such discrimination was rationalized by an attitude of ‘romantic paternalism’ which, in practical effect, put women, not on a pedestal, but in a cage.” He went on to say that “throughout much of the 19th century the position of women in our society was, in many respects, comparable to that of blacks under the pre-Civil War slave codes. Neither slaves nor women could hold office, serve on juries, or bring suit in their own names, and married women traditionally were denied the legal capacity to hold or convey property or to serve as legal guardians of their own children.”
In the 20th century – in 1920 – women finally got the right to vote, but many discriminatory laws remained on the books, and new social programs of the states and the federal government contained discriminatory provisions based on stereotypes about women’s role in the family and in society.
Here are some of the laws and policies that put women “in a cage” that were struck down by the Supreme Court in the forty years that followed Reed: Read more »
Learn all about this landmark case by registering for the live webcast of “Reed v. Reed at 40: Equal Protection and Women’s Rights,” apanel that will be held on Thursday, November 17, 2011, from 1-2:30 pm Eastern.Read more »
Law professor Robert Bork has signed on as co-chairman of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s “Justice Advisory Committee.” According to Bork, a former federal judge and failed Supreme Court nominee, “I’d like to be asked a question now and then for advice.”
So, what kind of advice will Bork, known for his staunchly outlier positions, offer? Well, in addition to his opposition to the constitutional right to privacy and his very limited view of the protection of the First Amendment, Bork takes an extreme stance on the Fourteenth Amendment: he believes the Equal Protection Clause should not apply to women. (Even Justice Scalia recently walked back a similar view.) As Bork explained to Newsweek:
“I think I feel justified [in taking that position] by the fact ever since [the Court held that it applies to women], the Equal Protection Clause kept expanding in ways that cannot be justified historically, grammatically, or any other way. Women are a majority of the population now—a majority in university classrooms and a majority in all kinds of contexts. It seems to me silly to say, ‘Gee, they’re discriminated against and we need to do something about it.’ They aren’t discriminated against anymore.” Read more »