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United States v. Virginia

Citation. 972 F. Supp. 1008 (E.D. Va. 1997)
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Brief Fact Summary.

An all male military program in the state of Virginia created a parallel women’s program to remedy any unlawful treatment of women resulting from the all male military program’s admission policy.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The creation of a parallel program for women does not provide for an adequate solution for remedying the unequal treatment resulting from educational policies that exclude women in an effort to protect the essence or characteristics of an all male military program.


The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) is a military college that only allows admissions to men. VMI stands as the only all male public institution in the state of Virginia. The mission of VMI is to “produce ‘citizen-soldiers,’ men prepared for leadership in civilian life and in military service.” VMI education features “[p]hysical rigor, mental stress, absolute equality of treatment, absence of privacy, minute regulation of behavior, and indoctrination in desirable values.” The United States sued Virginia and VMI for the school’s admission policy. The District Court ruled in favor of VMI but, it was reversed and remanded by the Circuit Court suggesting that the state and VMI “[a]dmit women to VMI; establish parallel institutions or programs; or abandon state support, leaving VMI free to pursue its policies as a private institution . . . .” Therefore, according to the suggestions of the Court of Appeals, VMI proposed a “parallel program for women: Virginia Women’s Institute for
Leadership (VWIL).” As a result of this proposal, the District Court ruled that the plan met equal protection requirements. The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s decision. The judgment of the Court of Appeals was reversed.


The issues presented to the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) are as follows:
Whether Virginia’s “exclusion of women from educational opportunities provided by the VMI . . . deny to women ‘capable of all of the individual activities required by VMI cadets,’ . . . the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Whether creating a parallel program for women will remedy any violation to the Constitution that may exist as result of VMI’s admission’s policy.


Justice Ruth Bader (J. Ginsburg). The Supreme Court’s ruling is as follows:
Yes. VMI’s denial of educational opportunities to women is not supported by a showing that the “[challenged] classification serves an ‘important governmental objective[ ] and that the discriminatory means employed’ are ‘substantially related to achievement of those objectives.”
No. Creating a parallel program to remedy any constitutional violation that may be espoused by VMI’s admission policy “does not cure the constitutional violation” and does not provide for equal educational opportunities. The only suitable remedy to the VMI admission policy would be to eliminate it entirely. “A remedial decree . . . must closely fit the constitutional violation; it must be shaped to place persons unconstitutionally denied an opportunity or advantage in ‘the position they would have occupied in the absence of [discrimination]’.”


Justice Antonin Scalia (J. Scalia). Government-funded military schools for men falls in line with the historical traditions of the United States. In this case, the Supreme Court fails to find that Virginia has a state interest to “provid[e] effective college education for its citizens” and “[t]hat single-sex instruction is an approach substantially related to that interest.” This country has a long-standing history and support for all male and all female institutions. The Court’s decision that the VMI’s unique characteristic of being an all male school violates constitutional principles makes a mockery of the “State’s important education interests” to maintain that unique characteristic. “VMI would be fundamentally altered if it admitted women . . .” into its military program.
Concurrence. Justice William Rehnquist (J. Rehnquist). “A State does not have substantial interest in the adversative methodology unless it is pedagogically beneficial [, and] . . . there is no . . . evidence in the record that an adversative method is pedagogically beneficial or is any more likely to produce character traits than other methodologies.”


Educational institutions that are classified on the basis of gender do not allow for the elimination of unconstitutional gender discrimination.

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