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Tax on Men’s Gloves Isn’t Gender Bias, Court Says

(CN) - The Federal Circuit dismissed a lawsuit alleging that higher import taxes on men's leather gloves than on women's gloves amounts to unconstitutional gender discrimination. "[I]t is hazardous to infer discriminatory purpose from discriminatory impact," Judge Timothy Dyk wrote.

Totes-Isotoner Corp. appealed a ruling by the U.S. Court of International Trade tossing its complaint for failure to state a claim.

U.S. tariff laws require purchasers to pay 14 percent in customs taxes for seamed men's leather gloves, but only 12.6 percent for gloves "for other persons."

The Federal Circuit rejected the company's equal protection claim, saying Totes-Isotoner failed to show that the government purposefully tried to discriminate.

The fact that trade negotiations had a "disparate impact" on taxes for certain items doesn't prove that Congress meant to discriminate against men, the Washington, D.C.-based court ruled.

Totes-Isotoner had argued that the tariff rates were unconstitutional, because they discriminated between similar property. But the court pointed out that men's and women's gloves were not necessarily in the same class of property.

"Men's and women's gloves are separate commodities, moving in different channels of trade and presenting different commercial issues with respect to domestic manufacturers," Judge Dyk wrote.

Congress uses product classifications to help promote trade policy objectives with other countries, the ruling states. It's not concerned with the characteristics of the people who ultimately buy those products.

"[I]n the area of taxation and tariffs, something more than disparate impact is required to establish a purpose to discriminate for the purposes of pleading an equal protection violation," Dyk wrote.

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