United States v. Virginia

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  • Fairness in the Courts
  • Sex-Based Classification
  • Joined Amicus Brief
1996

Determined whether a males-only admission policy at a state-run institution violates the Equal Protection Clause.

The Supreme Court rules that the males-only admissions policy at the state-run Virginia Military Institute violates women’s constitutional right to equal protection and orders the school to admit women or forfeit its government funding. The case reflects the remarkable role of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the advance of women’s constitutional equality. As a lawyer, she had argued a series of landmark sex discrimination cases beginning in 1971 that slowly guided the Supreme Court to its contemporary recognition that government action based on sex often violates the Constitution. Now, as a member of the Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg cites the opinions issued in those cases: Reed v. Reed (1971), Frontiero v. Richardson (1973), Weinberger v. Weisenfeld (1975), and Califano v. Goldfarb (1977). Her opinion for the Court sums up the full force of the legal revolution she has led: the Constitution prohibits government from denying to women, "simply because they are women, full citizenship stature—equal opportunity to aspire, achieve, participate in and contribute to society based on their individual talents and capacities."