Issue. Whether Florida’s property tax exemption for widows unlawfully discriminates against widowers.
Held. Justice William Douglas (J. Douglas). No. The Florida statute is within the limits of discrimination allowed by the Constitution because it aims to protect widows who face a higher economic disadvantage than widowers.
Dissent. Points of Law - for Law School Success
On the contrary, any statutory scheme which draws a sharp line between the sexes, solely for the purpose of achieving administrative convenience, necessarily commands dissimilar treatment for men and women who are similarly situated, and therefore involves the very kind of arbitrary legislative choice forbidden by the Constitution. View Full Point of Law
The dissenting opinions are as follows:
Justice William (J. Brennan). Florida provides erroneous support for its interest because the statute also protects widows who are economically fortunate. The statute could easily have been narrowly tailored to include only those widows who have suffered “past economic discrimination.”
Justice Byron White (J. White). “[E]ven if past discrimination is considered to be the criterion for current tax exemption, the State nevertheless ignores all those widowers who have felt the effects of economic discrimination, whether as a member of a racial group or as one of the many who cannot escape the cycle of poverty.” There is no sufficient explanation by the State as to why women should be treated differently than men. Discussion.
By recognizing how past discrimination has economically disadvantaged women more so than men, the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) is justified in upholding statutes that result in gender-based classifications.