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A Tax Case Key To Justice Ginsburg’s Equal Protection Fight

By Olivia H. Renensland
September 30, 2020

In the fall of 1970, future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her husband Martin Ginsburg decided to take on Moritz v. Commissioner, representing Charles Moritz in his appeal of a U.S. Tax Court decision that denied him a dependent care deduction under now-defunct Section 214 of the Internal Revenue Code.

The legal reasoning Justice Ginsburg deployed in the brief they submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, arguing the unconstitutionality of laws that discriminate on the basis of sex alone, would not only win Moritz’s case, but become the foundation for a lineage of jurisprudence denying the constitutionality of sex-based discrimination.

Justice Ginsburg’s brilliance in arguing Moritz was recently captured on the silver screen in “On the Basis of Sex,” but equally brilliant was her strategic decision to commence her long-term fight to dismantle paternalistic legislation that denied women equal protection by: (1) using the tax code as the vehicle for challenging legalized sex-based discrimination — as opposed to advancing more controversial legislation at the time, such as a law promoting women’s right to choose, and (2) advocating on behalf of a man as opposed to a woman.

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