Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s historic gender discrimination suit win in 1975

RBG represented Stephen Wiesenfeld whose wife died in childbirth in 1972; he was not allowed to receive Social Security survivor benefits which, at the time, was only designated for women to receive.
3:23 | 09/20/20

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Transcript for Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s historic gender discrimination suit win in 1975
her legacy all morning, and we go all the way back to 1975 before she was a supreme court justice, Ginsburg won a major gender discrimination suit before the supreme court. Joining us now is the man she represented, Stephen wiesenfeld. Thank you for joining us this morning. I want to talk about your case because when we think about justice Ginsburg, because we think about her women, but she was a fighter for broader equality for all, and your wife died in childbirth in 1972, and this is what your case was about. You tried to get social security survivor benefits. At the time the law only allowed women to get those benefits if the husband died, not the other way around. You watched Ginsburg argue the case before the supreme court. What was that like for you? Well, it was a very interesting time, and I want to point out that there's a woman's rights element to the case which is actually stronger and one might think a surviving widower would receive the benefit because my wife, Paula, she had paid money into the social security system for seven years. She was a schoolteacher, paying money into the system. So when she passed away, the benefit that would accrue to a similarly situated male would support his wife, but there was no benefit for a widow -- widower who might have received that benefit had he been a woman instead, and it would show that what Ruth Ginsburg argued at the supreme court is the value of the money that all I had earned is worth less in a similarly situated male, whereas his money went to support his family and the wife's money does not. And we know that so many of these cases that she fought for, it was about establishing a precedent there, and in your case, included in that years later though, Ginsburg officiated your son's wedding. The two of you kept in touch through letters over the years. How well did you get to know her, and what was she like in private outside the public eye? Well, she was a very friendly, very caring person. Every time that we got together, there was always a hug and little things of that nature. When I -- she also married my wife -- my current wife and me. That's Elaine that you see, that picture on the screen, and when I first brought her -- brought Elaine into Ruth's chambers, she walked right up to Elaine and gave her a hug and gave her a congratulatory smile that we were getting married. She was always very caring, and we could sit and talk for hours without having to mention anything about the law. Just talk about ourselves and ideas that the way things might be working out for the country, and highly political kinds of things, but without being prejudiced one way or the other of being a Republican or Democrat. Stephen, thank you for your time this morning. We appreciate your insight and giving us a glimpse into this brief moment in what was an extraordinary life and career in Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Thank you so much again. Thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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