On the basis of sex

In the lead up International Women’s Day 2019 Dendy has put on this excellent film about one of the victories of the women’s movement, in this case, that women should not be discriminated against in their employment on the basis of their sex.

Sex discrimination
Charles E. Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue was the landmark sex discrimination case in the USA. It was about a man who looked after his mother by hiring a carer and claimed a tax deduction for this expense against his income. Mr. Moritz was a never-married man whose invalid mother lived with him. His work for a publisher required extensive travel and he hired a woman to help care for his mother. In his federal income tax return for 1968 he deducted the $1,250 he paid for the caregiver’s services that year. Section 214 of the Internal Revenue Code in force for that year discriminated against taxpayers on the basis of their sex. In this case, unmarried men. The Ginsburgs began a strategic challenge to laws containing sex discrimination. The government saw the dangers inherent in their challenge and sought a “printout from the Department of Defense computer” that listed, title by title, every provision of the U.S. Code “containing differentiations based upon sex-related criteria.”

The Ginsburgs won the case and Ruth Bader-Ginsburg went on challenge other laws that discriminated against women. Ginsburg demonstrated a steely determination before the all male court of appeals. Ruth Ginsburg was one of only 9 women to attend Havard law school.

Her challenges to sex discrimination included matters ranging from a woman’s right to be executor of her son’s estate (Reed v. Reed, 1970), to a female Air Force lieutenant’s right to secure housing allowances and medical benefits for her husband (Frontiero v. Richardson, 1973), and the right of Oklahoma’s “thirsty boys” (her words) to buy beer at the Honk n’ Holler at the same age as young women (Craig v. Boren, 1976).

It was in Craig v. Boren that Ginsburg secured the court’s agreement that—in her words—the “familiar stereotype: the active boy, aggressive and assertive; the passive girl, docile and submissive” was “not fit to be written into law.”

The film is well worth seeing.

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