On This Date in Legal History

The case Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld arose after a widower, Steven C. Wiesenfeld (“Wiesenfeld”) was denied his Social Security survivor benefits upon his wife’s death during childbirth. Wiesenfeld opted not to work (outside the home) in order to raise their child. His wife, Paula Polatschek, had been the principal wage earner during their marriage. She was a teacher and always had the maximum Social Security contribution deducted from her paycheck. The Social Security Act had a provision, however, that stated fathers (unlike mothers) were ineligible to collect benefits upon their spouse’s death. So Wiesenfeld sued the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Caspar Weinberger, claiming that the gender-based discrimination was unconstitutional. On January 20, 1975, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (the current senior Supreme Court Justice) represented Wiesenfeld before the United States Supreme Court. You can listen to her argument at http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1974/1974_73_1892. On March 19, 1975, the Court agreed that the provision was discriminatory.


On July 20, 1990, Justice William Brennan retired after serving on the United States Supreme Court for over 33 years.

Justice Brennan explained, “by providing dissimilar treatment for men and women who are…similarly situated, the challenged section violates the [Due Process] Clause.”

About Tina Nelson
Tina Nelson

Tina Nelson is an attorney and mom. She created the LAWSUIT™ board game to teach her three children about the law. The game was an instant success. Copyrights and a patent were obtained, and Professional Games, Inc. was born. Professional Games, Inc. created this blog to educate and keep its friends and customers regularly updated about our American legal system.
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