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Frontiero v. Richardson

    Brief Fact Summary. The Appellant, Sharron Frontiero (Appellant), asserts that a military practice that automatically allowed the wives of male officers to be considered as dependents and thus receive the rights of dependents, but required the female officers, in order to get the benefits for their husbands, to actually prove that their husbands were dependent upon them, is an unconstitutional gender based classification.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Classifications based on sex are inherently suspect and must be subject to strict judicial scrutiny.

    Facts. The Appellant, a lieutenant in the United States Air Force, sought housing, medical and dental benefits for her husband. The Appellant did so on the basis that her husband was a dependent based on a statute that states dependents of service personnel are eligible for such benefits. The Appellant’s application was denied because she failed to show her husband was dependent on her for more than one-half of his support. The Appellant filed suite arguing that the statute unreasonably discriminated on the basis of gender in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution). The Appellant asserted the discriminatory impact was twofold. First, as a procedural matter, a female member is required to demonstrate her spouse’s dependency, while a male member is not required to demonstrate his spouse’s dependency. Second, as a substantive matter, a male member who does not provide more than one-half of his wife’s support receives be
    nefits, while a similarly situated female member is denied such benefits. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) concluded that classifications based on sex are inherently suspect and must be subjected to strict judicial scrutiny.

    Issue. Whether the differential treatment of the allocation of allowances and benefits in the uniformed services by allowing servicemen’s spouses to claim a dependent without regard to whether they are truly dependent on their spouses, while requiring servicewomen’s spouses to show they are actually dependent on their spouses for over one half of his support violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment?

    Held. Reversed. The Due Process Clause is violated by this gender classification. Classifications based on sex are inherently suspect and must be subjected to strict judicial scrutiny.
    Concurrence.
    Statute mandates invidious discrimination, which violates of the Constitution.
    The challenged statute constitutes an unconstitutional discrimination in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. However it is unnecessary to characterize sex as a suspect class because if the Equal Rights Amendment is enacted it will resolve the substance of this precise question.

    Discussion. Classifications based on sex are inherently suspect per the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth amendment and must be subject to strict judicial scrutiny


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