Stephen Wiesenfeld (plaintiff) was married to Paula Polatschek. Polatschek worked as a teacher for five years prior to the marriage and continued to teach afterwards. Polatschek’s earnings were the primary source of income for the couple, and the maximum amount of Social Security contributions were deducted from her salary. In 1972, Polatschek died during childbirth. Wiesenfeld applied for Social Security survivor benefits for himself and his son. However, Social Security only granted benefits for the son because spousal-survivor benefits were only available to women. Wiesenfeld sued, alleging that the gender discrimination in the Social Security Act was unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution.