Frontiero v. Richardson


Air Force enlistees are entitled to housing and benefits for their dependents under the laws of the US.  Appellant was a female attempting to have her husband listed as a dependent; but her application was denied because she could not show that he was dependent on her for more than half of his financial support.  The appellant believed the requirement discriminated on the basis of gender because the law makes clear that a female dependent need not show a particular amount of financial dependency, while a male (her husband) does have to show a particular level of financial dependency.  She argued that because this was basis for approval or denial of these benefits, the policy discriminated on the basis of gender.  She sued under the due process clause of the United States.


Whether the relevant benefits policy for servicemen and women violates the due process clause of the constitution.


Yes, reversed,  the law unconstitutionally discriminates on the basis of gender.  The court wrote that classifications based on sex under the due process clause (not necessarily the equal protection clause) are deserving of strict scrutiny.  The government claimed that the law was justified on the basis of “administrative convenience.”  However, when questioned, the government could not produce a justification for the discrimination itself.  That is, when questioned as to whether the policy could be made differently so as to not discriminate against particular groups, the government could not sufficiently provide a reason for the discriminatory nature of the policy.  The court, therefore, found the law was not narrowly tailored and was arbitrarily discriminatory.

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