Frontiero v. Richardson
411 U.S. 677 (1973)

  • Frontiero was in the Air Force. She applied for a housing benefit based on the fact that her husband was a dependent, but was denied. She sued for gender discrimination.
    • Under Air Force rules at the time, a wife was automatically considered a dependent of a male soldier, but a female soldier had to prove that her husband was actually ‘dependent’ on her for his income.
    • Frontiero argued that this was a violation of due process under the 5th Amendment.
  • The US Supreme Court found for Frontiero and found the Air Force policy unconstitutional.
    • The US Supreme Court compared gender discrimination to race discrimination.
      • “Classifications based upon sex, like classifications based upon race, alienage, and national origin are inherently suspect and must therefore be subjected to close judicial scrutiny.”
    • Therefore, the Court found that the proper level of review was strict scrutiny.
    • The Court found that based on a strict scrutiny review, the Air Force policy did not meet the requirements of due process.
  • This was a reversal of the position the US Supreme Court took in Reed v. Reed (404 U.S. 71 (1971)), where they found that the proper level of judicial review for gender discrimination was only rational basis review.
  • Later, the Court changed their minds again in Craig v. Boren (429 U.S. 190 (1976)), and found that the proper level of judicial review for gender discrimination was intermediate scrutiny.