United States v. Virginia
518 U.S. 515 (1996)

  • Virginia Military Institute (VMI) was a publicly-funded college for students who wanted to join the military. Only males were admitted.
  • Several female students sued, claiming that the policy was gender discrimination and was therefore an unconstitutional violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
    • Virginia argued that there were good reasons for keeping the girls out, and that if they let them in, the whole school would be ruined because they couldn’t run the school the same way.
  • The Appellate Court accepted Virginia’s argument that instead of admitting women to VMI, they would start a parallel program at another school.
    • Virginia argued that females could apply to one of Virginia’s other publicly-funded schools (Mary Baldwin College), which was pretty much the same thing.
      • However, the schools were not academically comparable.
  • The US Supreme Court reversed and found Virginia policy of excluding females from VMI was an unconstitutional violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
    • The US Supreme Court found that those seeking to defend a gender-based government action must demonstrate an “exceedingly persuasive justification” for that action.
      • That’s Intermediate Scrutiny review.
      • See Craig v. Boren (429 U.S. 190 (1976)), which found that the proper level of judicial review for gender discrimination was intermediate scrutiny.
    • The Court found that Virginia’s arguments for keeping the females out were unpersuasive.
      • “Virginia, in sum, has fallen far short of the exceedingly persuasive justification that must be the solid base for any gender-defined classification.”