Women's Rights Cases for Gender Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

The United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Illinois and argued that the Fourteenth Amendment was designed to protect against race discrimination only…" Gibson, 2007, Background to Muller v. Oregon section ¶ 1). The Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment did not include the protection of women's rights.

The following depicts Justice Bradley's concurring opinion regarding Bradwell's

Man is, or should be, woman's protector and defender. The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life. The constitution of the family organization, which is founded in the divine ordinance, as well in the nature of things, indicates the domestic sphere as that which properly belongs to the domain and functions of womanhood.... The paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator. (20-21) Background to Muller v. Oregon section, ¶ 3).

Bradwell v. Illinois (1979) constitutes the first case initiated in a long line of cases that denied women protection against sex. This study examines five cases from the long line of cases relating to women's rights, from the past. As noted in this paper's introduction, the following five cases serve as samples of cases relating to women's rights:

1. Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971)

2. Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190 (1976)

3. United States ex-rel Robinson v. York, 281 F. Supp. 8 (D. Conn. 1968)

4. Liberti v. York, 28 Conn. Supp. 9, 246 a.2d 106 (S. Ct. 1968)

5. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976):

Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971)

The Oyez Project recounts that in regard to Reed v. Reed (1971), the Idaho Probate Code specified that "males must be preferred to females" in appointing administrators of estates (1971, p. 1). Following the death of the adopted son of Sally and Cecil Reed, who were estranged and separated at this time, both sought to be named as the administrator of their son's estate. When the Probate Code appointed Cecil as administrator of the estate, Sally challenged the law in Court. The primary question this case addressed, queried: "Did the Idaho Probate Code violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?" (the oyez…, 1971, p. 1). The decision regarding this case was unanimous in regard to the Court's argument that giving either sex over members of the other mandatory preference simply to accomplish the elimination of hearings on the merits, makes the arbitrary legislative choice the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment forbids.

Ultimately, the Court held the law's dissimilar treatment of men and women to be unconstitutional. "[T]he choice in this context," the court determined may not lawfully be mandated solely on the basis of sex." (the oyez…, 1971, p. 1)

Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190 (1976)

In response to an Oklahoma law prohibiting the sale of "nonintoxicating" 3.2% beer to males under the age of 21 and to females under the age of 18, the focus for Craig v. Boren (1976), as briefly noted in this paper's introduction, a licensed vendor, along with Curtis Craig, at the time between the ages of 18 and 21, and challenged the Oklahoma law as discriminatory. For this case, the Court considered the question: "Did an Oklahoma statute violate the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause by establishing different drinking ages for men and women?" ?(the oyez…, 1976, p.1). The decision merited a 7-to-2 vote.

The Court found that the Oklahoma statute did make unconstitutional gender classifications. "The Court held that the statistics relied on by the state of Oklahoma were insufficient to show a substantial relationship between the law and the maintenance of traffic safety. Generalities about the drinking habits of aggregate groups did not suffice" ?(the oyez…, 1976, p.1). In addition, the Court found that in the case the Twenty-first Amendment did not alter the application of the Equal Protection Clause. United States ex-rel Robinson v. York, 281 F. Supp. 8 (D. Conn. 1968)

In United States ex-rel Robinson v. York (1968), M. Popiel (1980) explains, the Court considered the argument the Courts had previously rejected until the late 1960's that disparate sentencing violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution.. The United States District Court for the District of Connecticut held for Robinson v. York that State statutes which mandated sex-based disparate
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sentencing violated the equal protection clause.

As a result of the determination regarding Robinson v. York (1968), along with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision regarding Commonwealth v. Daniel (1968) and the 1973 New Jersey Supreme Court following suit in State v. Chambers., statutory sentencing schemes treating men and women differently are not likely to withstand challenge . Retrieved April 3,

2009, fromStill, a broad discretionary power vested in sentencing judges and parole boards continues to exist, permitting gross and irremediable violations of equal protection. Popiel (1980) purports:

Violations are virtually invisible; only the decision itself can be scrutinized, and the means through which the decision was reached remain hidden. It is suggested that the solution to violation of the equal protection clause is to limit the discretionary power of sentencing judges and parole boards. This can be achieved by providing a mechanism to review sentencing and related decisions and by limiting the factors which may lawfully be considered. The proposed limitation demands some modification of the rehabilitative model. The judge or parole board should not be permitted to delve into every aspect of the offender's background and personality. Reviewing sentences and parole decisions, structuring discretion, and maximizing consistency through use of guidelines are recommended to improve the present system of discriminatory individualized sentencing. (Popiel, 1980, Abstract)

Liberti v. York, 28 Conn. Supp. 9, 246 a.2d 106 (S. Ct. 1968)

Barbara Allen Babcock (1975) recounts the case of Liberti v. York (1968) in Sex Discrimination and the Law: Causes. In this case, a Connecticut superior Court challenges considerations relating to a 'legitimate basis' for that state's sex-differential sentencing statute. Although the researcher invested a number of hours searching for more information regarding Liberti v. York, the researcher ultimately surmised that a dearth of information exists regarding this particular case. What the researcher surmised from the minimal retrieved literature was that in Liberti v. York, the U.S. Supreme Court held that as males convicted of the same crime could only be sentenced to a maximum of one year, while the female plaintiff's indeterminate sentences of up to three years simultaneously violated the equal protection clause. Basically, prior to Liberti v. York, women received longer prison sentences than males. The determination of Liberti v. York, albeit reportedly settled that particular problem. (***source needed here)

Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976)

In Estelle v. Gamble (1976), he U.S. Supreme Court established framework for evaluating medical care in the prison setting with this prohibition against "deliberate indifference" to the inmates' serious illness or injury. The Court concluded that as the incarcerated inmate must rely on prison authorities to treat his/her medical needs, and if the prison authorities neglect to ensure the inmate's medical needs are met, they will not be met. The Eighth Amendment purports that the deliberate indifference to medical needs constitutes the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." In addition, when indifference prohibits treatment of the inmate's medical needs, it does not matter whether the prison doctor (by his/her response to the inmate's medical needs) or by the correctional officers (by intentionally denying or delaying access to medical care or intentionally interfering with the treatment once the physician recommenders it) initiates the indifference, the prison maintains the responsibility for the neglect. (Morrison, 1996).

Estelle v. Gamble relates to the medical issues available for women inside the prison systems. Although the case did not directly qualify as a woman-specific case, following its ruling, prisons began to set the guideline standards from this case as for providing adequate medical care for incarcerated women with medical conditions. The primary fact, the researcher asserts, behind this case is the fact it brought the medical attention needed to ensure the prisons provided proper medical care to prisoners who needed treatment (***). The Supreme Court's ban on cruel and unusual punishment initially intended to prevent physical mutilation and torture

Today, particularly in the context of the death penalty, cruel and unusual punishment proves to be a matter of extreme controversy (Morrison, 1996, p. 111).

Peter M. Carlson and Judith Simon Garrett (1999) report in Prison and jail administration: practice and theory, that even though the equal protection clause primarily protects members of racial minorities the clause ultimately evolved into a broad charter of equal treatment. Its current reach extends beyond race to protect aliens, women, illegitimates and other insular or discrete minorities. In the political process, these particular groups have reportedly…

Sources Used in Documents:


Babcock, Barbara Allen. (1975). Sex Discrimination and the Law: Causes. Retrieved April 3,

2009, from http://books.google.com/books?id=pi5AAAAAIAAJ&q=Liberti+v.+York&dq=Li


The Columbia World of Quotations. (1996). Columbia University Press. New York.

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