The fight for women’s equality is ongoing, but looking back and celebrating the progress that has been made is essential for future growth. These five Supreme Court decisions, because of the impact they had on women’s equality, have helped inspire and continue the fight for women’s rights today.
- Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)
In this case, the Supreme Court ruled against a Connecticut law that banned contraceptive use for couples. Even though the right to privacy inside a marriage was not expressly guaranteed by the Constitution, this momentous decision established it. Judge William O. Douglas said in his majority judgment that the previous amendments created a “zone of privacy” shielding people from government encroachment and that this included “the right to marital seclusion.” The court argued that this covered married couples’ rights to access and utilize birth control, allowing women to have more sexual freedom.
- Reed vs. Reed (1971)
Under Idaho law, men were favored as estate administrators over women. However, this case struck down this law unanimously. In this case, an adopted son of a divorced couple had passed away without leaving a will. Both parents wished to administer the decedent’s estate, but in following state law, a lower court appointed the father as administrator.
While the Idaho law streamlined probate procedures, the Supreme Court ruled that treating men and women differently when there was no justifiable or pertinent reason to do so violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. Giving a gendered preference in these matters was arbitrary and a violation of women’s civil rights.
- Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson
Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson was a case involving sex discrimination by employers. The U.S. Supreme Court rendered a unanimous decision of 9-0 on June 19, 1986, that made sexual harassment leading to a hostile work environment illegal under Section VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Additionally, the Court developed standards for evaluating such claims, including establishing that the sexual advancements were unwanted by the victim. The Court ultimately ruled that Vinson was preyed on by her supervisor due to her gender, thus creating a hostile work environment. This decision was essential for giving women in the workforce the agency and resources to report sexual harassment without fear of retaliation for doing so.
- Pittsburgh Press Co. v. Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations (1973)
By a vote of 5 to 4, the Supreme Court upheld the law in Pittsburgh that makes it unlawful to specify gender criteria in most job advertising. The Pittsburgh Press listed help wanted ads in three columns, delineating positions offered to only men, only women, and both men and women. The newspaper filed an appeal on the grounds of the First Amendment, arguing that the state law violated their freedom of press rights.
The Supreme Court concluded that free speech protections did not apply to these ads or the newspaper’s classification of them because they were commercial communication and because the creation of gendered categories was discriminatory.
- International Union, UAW v. Johnson Controls, Inc. (1991)
In a unanimous 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that not hiring female applicants for a position in a battery factory, because of the risk the position posed to her reproductive capacity, was unlawful. The possibility of harmful effects on the male reproductive system was not addressed in the battery company’s concerns, so it was determined that this was blatant sex-based discrimination.
Seeking Help With Discrimination Claims
As the nation grows and develops, we start to outgrow the gender-based legal statutes of the past. Addressing sexism in existing legal statutes is one of the best ways to further women’s rights. To file a civil rights claim regarding sex-based discrimination, the legal team at Lamar Law Office is here to help. Contact us today to get started.