Class 7: The Rise of Equality: Gender II

Political Science

Course on “The Changing Purposes of American Government

Taught by Dr. Christopher Wolfe

CLASS 7: “The Rise of Equality: Gender II”

We turn now to a series of court cases dealing with gender equality from a modern perspective, beginning in the 1970’s. The first of these was a case in 1970 called Reed vs. Reed, which dealt with an Idaho law that gave a preference to males over females in the administration of estates. The striking thing about Reed vs. Reed is that, lo and behold, the court stuck down the law even though it used the rational basis test, the traditional standard that was used in equal protection cases. The reason this ruling was so unexpected under these circumstances is that, when the court uses a rational basis test, it almost always decides to uphold the legal distinction in question. Even benefits as minor as administrative convenience satisfy this minimal standard. Therefore, while the court used the rational basis test in Reed vs. Reed in a nominal way, it is clear that they were more demanding than usual about what constituted a rational basis.
CHRISTOPHER WOLFE IS EMERITUS PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AT MARQUETTE UNIVERSITY, AND SERVED AS CO-DIRECTOR OF THE THOMAS INTERNATIONAL CENTER FROM 2005 TO 2014.  HE CURRENTLY TEACHES AT THE UNIVERSITY OF DALLAS. HIS MAIN AREA OF RESEARCH AND TEACHING FOR TWO DECADES WAS CONSTITUTIONAL LAW AND AMERICAN POLITICAL THOUGHT, AND HE IS THE AUTHOR OF VARIOUS BOOKS, THE BEST KNOWN OF WHICH IS THE RISE OF MODERN JUDICIAL REVIEW, WHICH JUDGE ROBERT BORK, IN A 2006 WALL STREET JOURNAL CONTRIBUTION, LISTED AS ONE OF THE FIVE BEST BOOKS ON THE CONSTITUTION.