Ex-Edison native recalls 1975 inequality case that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought for him
A former Edison resident says Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once fought for him during a landmark case in the Supreme Court.
Bike shop owner Stephen Wiesenfeld married schoolteacher Paula Polatschek in 1970. Polatschek then gave birth to their son, Jason, on June 5, 1972.
During delivery, Polatschek suffered an amniotic embolism and was pronounced dead shortly after birth. Her son survived.
While Wiesenfeld grieved the loss of his wife, he applied for Social Security benefits for himself and his newborn son. They were available to Polatschek, who had been a schoolteacher for seven years.
He says that the benefits were only available to surviving widows - not men whose wives had died.
Wiesenfeld's challenge came to the attention of Ginsburg, a lawyer who was a Rutgers University professor and the head of the American Civil Liberties Union's Women's Rights Project at the time.
She argued inequities in the system that discriminated against Wiesenfeld, Polatschek and Jason. The case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and, in 1975, ruled in their favor and granted him the Social Security benefits.
In the years following the ruling, Wiesenfeld says they continued their friendship and Ginsburg even go to see Jason grow up.
Ginsburg officiated Wiesenfeld's wedding in 2019 at the U.S. Supreme Court nearly 40 years after their landmark victory for gender equality.