United States v. Virginia (VMI)


The Virginia Military Academy had a policy of only admitting men.  The US government sued on the basis of an equal protection violation.  At trial, the Academy won.  However, on appeal the court found that the creation of a female only version of the Academy would ensure non-violation of the equal protection clause.  The state of Virginia argued that the male-only policy contributed to educational diversity because it maintained order within the school. The state of Virginia had proposed this alternative and the court agreed.  The new version for women, however, would be more of a “leadership” academy that would receive the same academy rigor but not the same rigorous military training, nor would it have the same facilities suited toward that purpose. The government appealed this ruling.


Whether the creation of a female only version of a military academy with comparable programs sufficiently satisfies the equal protection clause of the constitution.


No, appellate decision reversed.  Justice Ginsburg wrote that the new “leadership” academy would not provide the exact same facilities or military training schedule or post-graduate reputation as the male-only VMI.  Ginsburg tied the separate schools to the scenario of “separate but equal” – which clearly did not and should not withstand constitutional scrutiny.

The court wrote that the male only admission policy did not show “exceedingly persuasive justification” for their admission policy.  That is, they did not show a substantial governmental interest in proffering a gender biased policy.  The court applied heightened or enhanced level of scrutiny on the policy because it was gender-based.  This effectively allowed for them to shoot down the separate school proposal because the court carefully picked apparent the differences between the two institutions in order to find the disparity between the sexes.

Leave a Reply