Califano v. Goldfarb

PETITIONER: Leon Goldfarb
RESPONDENT: Joseph Califano, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare
LOCATION: United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare

DOCKET NO.: 75-699
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)

CITATION: 430 US 199 (1977)
ARGUED: Oct 05, 1976
DECIDED: Mar 02, 1977

Ruth Bader Ginsburg - for appellee
Keith A. Jones - Deputy Solicitor General, Department of Justice, argued the cause for the appellant

Facts of the case

Leon Goldfarb was a widower who applied for survivor's benefits under the Social Security Act. Even though his wife Hannah had paid Social Security taxes for 25 years, his application was denied. To be eligible for benefits under 42 U.S.C. Section 402, he must have been receiving half his support from his wife at her time of death. Section 402 did not impose this requirement on widows whose husbands had recently passed away. Goldfarb challenged this statute under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The District Court ruled that the statute was unconstitutional. The Government appealed to the Supreme Court.


Do the gender-based requirements for survivor's benefits in Section 402 violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment?

Media for Califano v. Goldfarb

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 05, 1976 in Califano v. Goldfarb

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 02, 1977 in Califano v. Goldfarb

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in Number 75-699, Califano Secretary of Heath Education and Welfare against Goldfarb will be announced by Mr. Justice Brennan.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Under the Social Security Act, survivors benefits based on the earnings of a deceased husband covered by the Act are payable to his widow regardless of dependency.

But such benefits on the basis of a deceased wife covered by the Act, are payable to our widower only if he was receiving at least half of his support from her.

In this case, a three-judge district court held that the different treatment of men and women so mandated constituted invidious discrimination against female wage earners by affording them less protection for their surviving spouses than is provided to male employees.

That judgment is affirmed.

Our affirmance is supported by two opinions.

I had filed one in which Justices White, Marshall and Powell have joined, Mr. Justice Stevens has filed the other, Mr. Justice Rehnquist dissents and has filed a dissenting opinion in which the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Stewart and Mr. Justice Blackmun have joined.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Brennan.