How has the U.S. Supreme Court construed the constitution to attack de jure discrimination against women?Why were women, especially white women, some of the strongest supporters of the Black Civil...

How has the U.S. Supreme Court construed the constitution to attack de jure discrimination against women?
Why were women, especially white women, some of the strongest supporters of the Black Civil Rights Movement?
What impact did the Black Civil Right Movement have on efforts to end gender discrimination? 

Asked on by meno9411

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Let us start with the second question first.  We can say that women were major supporters of the Civil Rights Movement because they, too, felt the impact of discrimination.  In the 1950s and 1960s, there were still many laws that treated women as second class citizens.  These were things like laws about owning property and laws that imposed extra burdens on women trying to claim government benefits.  Women also felt the impact of less official discrimination as they were treated as inferiors by many men.  Because women felt discrimination in these ways, many of them would have been sympathetic to the desire of African Americans for equal treatment.

The Civil Rights Movement helped reduce the amount of legalized gender discrimination that occurred in the US.  Perhaps the greatest example of this comes in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  That law was originally intended to ban racial discrimination.  However, it also ended up banning discrimination on the basis of sex.  The Civil Rights Movement also helped reduce gender discrimination because it helped encourage many women to become involved in pushing for their own rights.  In addition, it helped show women tactics that could be used in their own struggle.

The struggle for women’s rights was helped by the Supreme Court of the United States.  The Supreme Court construed the Constitution in such a way as to ban much discrimination on the basis of sex.  The Fourteenth Amendment, in particular, is important in this regard.  It provides that all people shall receive the “equal protection of the laws.”  However, it does not define this phrase.  For example, we do not take that phrase to mean that men and women must be allowed to use the same restrooms even though we do take it to ban racial segregation in restrooms.  As another example, we allow the law to treat minors differently than adults.  At one time, people believed that women were like minors and could not be treated as the legal equals of men.  The Supreme Court rejected this idea and construed the Constitution to mean that women could not be treated differently unless discriminatory laws were “substantially related” to an “important governmental objective.”  By saying this, the Court made it much harder for de jure discrimination to occur on the basis of sex. 

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