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US v. Virginia

518 U.S. 515(1996)

tl;dr: VMI's policy of excluding women from admissions fails the intermediate scrutiny test.

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The Supreme Court ruled that Virginia's public institutions of higher learning, including Virginia Military Institute (VMI), cannot exclude women from their educational opportunities. The Court of Appeals found that VMI's single-sex policy violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The case was sent back to Virginia to select a remedial course, which could include admitting women to VMI, establishing parallel institutions or programs, or abandoning state support. Virginia proposed a state-sponsored undergraduate program for women called Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership (VWIL) at Mary Baldwin College, which was approved by the court as a remedial plan. The court determined that the Commonwealth was not required to provide a mirror image VMI for women, but anticipated that Mary Baldwin and VMI would achieve substantially similar outcomes. The court added the inquiry of "substantive comparability" to determine whether men at VMI and women at VWIL would obtain comparable benefits, and found that the educational opportunities at the two schools were sufficiently comparable. Judge Phillips and Judge Motz dissented, stating that Virginia did not provide a convincing reason for excluding women from VMI's educational opportunities. The court found that Virginia violated the Equal Protection Clause by excluding women from VMI's program without a convincing justification. The proposed remedy was found insufficient, and the Fourth Circuit's final judgment was reversed. The court requires actual state purposes, not rationalizations, for gender-based classifications. The case of Mississippi Univ. for Women is similar, where the state justified excluding men from a nursing school as "educational affirmative action" to compensate for discrimination against women. Virginia's alleged pursuit of diversity through single-sex education is not supported by history. The lack of public single-sex higher education for women is not an anomaly, but rather the result of deliberate actions.

The Court of Appeals ruled that VMI's male-only admission policy violates equal protection, and Virginia's proposed solution of creating a separate program for women is insufficient. The Court ruled that Virginia has not provided an "exceedingly persuasive justification" for withholding the unique educational opportunity and prestige of VMI from women. The only adequate remedy would be the admission of women to the all-male institution or creating a separate institution for women of the same overall caliber as VMI. Justice Scalia dissents from the Court's decision to shut down VMI. The Court's decision to end single-sex education at VMI is criticized by Justice Scalia, who argues that the Constitution should not be used to enshrine current societal preferences.

The Court's decision to allow women to attend VMI is flawed as it disregards evidence and misinterprets precedent. Admitting women would fundamentally alter key elements of VMI's adversative educational system, and the lack of an all-women's equivalent to VMI is not important. The decision may also extend beyond public institutions to private ones, potentially leading to challenges to the tax-exempt status of single-sex colleges and universities. The future of state-assisted single-sex private schools is uncertain and depends on the Court's application of the law. The author believes that the destruction of VMI's Code of a Gentleman will not benefit anyone, including women.

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Facts & Holding


Holding:The standard of review for any governmental gender classification is...

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US v. Virginia

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