United States v. Virginia et al.
June 26, 1996
One of the more controversial issues to come before the Supreme Court in 1996 was the question of whether military academices could continue a policy of admitting males only. Virginia Military Institute tooks its case to the Supreme Court, arguing that it ought to be permitted to continue its tradition of admitting only males; furthermore, the State of Virginia offered an alternative school, Mary Baldwin School, for women who were interested in applying to VMI.
The Court ruled strongly against VMI, prohibiting the policy of restricting admissions to males only. Justice Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion, and Justice Rehnquist wrote a separate concurring opinion. Justice Scalia wrote a scathing dissent. Justice Thomas, whose son attends VMI, did not participate in the discussion or decision on the case.
Court Syllabus (summary)
Majority Opinion, by Justice Ginsburg
"Women seeking and fit for a VMI-quality education cannot be offered anything less under the state's obligation to afford them genuinely equal protection...."
"Generalizations about 'the way women are,' estimates of what is appropriate for MOST WOMEN, no longer justify denying opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description"
Concurring Opinion, by Justice Rehnquist
Dissenting Opinion, by Justice Scalia.
". . . change is forced upon Virginia, and reversion to single-sex education is prohibited nationwide, not by democratic processes but by order of this court."
This decision is "not the interpretation of a Constitution, but the creation of one."
For news coverage, see:
CNN: "VMI must admit women," June 26, 1996