Five women filed a lawsuit against New York Thursday, to end the tampon tax imposed by the state. The suit "also seeks refunds for millions of women targeted by the illegal sales tax," according to a press release from lawyers representing the women.
The class action suit against the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance said that the tampon and sanitary pad sales tax violates the Equal Protection Clauses of the United States and New York Constitutions.
"It’s time for New York to stop taxing women for being women,” Ilann M. Maazel, the women's lawyer, said in a statement.
While the state does not tax medical items, the department had a "double standard" when defining these items for men and women, the lawsuit said.
According to the complaint, while medical products such as Rogaine, foot powder, dandruff shampoo, chapstick, facial wash, and adult diapers — used by both men and women — are not taxed, tampons and sanitary pads — used exclusively by women — are.
"It is a vestige of another era, and now it is time to end it," the lawsuit said.
"Justice Scalia once wrote for the Supreme Court that 'A tax on wearing yarmulkes is a tax on Jews,'" the lawsuit said. "A tax on tampons and sanitary pads is a tax on women."
The five women who filed the lawsuit include Margo Seibert, 31, an actor and co-founder of Racket — an organization providing women with a "shame-free period," Catherine O'Neil, 43, a mathematician and data scientist, Jennifer Moore, 45, a children's program coordinator, and Natalie Brasington, 31, a photographer.
Their complaint called the tax irrational and discriminatory and said that the state should "return the many millions of dollars they took illegally at the expense of women’s health."
According to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, feminine hygiene products such as douches, tampons, sanitary napkins, vaginal creams, are subject to sales tax because they are "generally used to control a normal bodily function and to maintain personal cleanliness." The department says products which function as a treatment for a specific medical condition may be exempt from the sales tax.
The lawsuit said it was "undisputable that tampons and sanitary pads serve multiple medical purposes" and were a necessity for women’s health as they were "used to staunch the flow of menstrual blood and prevent encrustation and detritus."
“Tampons and sanitary pads are a necessity for women, not a luxury," Zoe Salzman, another lawyer for the women, said in a statement. "There is no way these products would be taxed if men had to use them."
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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