1973 May 14

Equal Protection for Women: “Frontiero v. Richardson”

 

Frontiero v. Richardson, decided on this day, was a landmark Supreme Court decision on sex discrimination. Sharron Frontiero was a Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force who applied for housing benefits for her husband, whom she claimed as a dependent. Under then-existing military policy, wives — but not husbands — were entitled to benefits as dependents. A majority of the Court declared the policy unconstitutional.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg filed an amicus brief for Frontiero for the ACLU. As Co-Founder and Director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project at the time, Ginsburg was involved in almost all of the early women’s rights cases before the Court, including Reed v. Reed (November 22, 1971). On June 14, 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated Ginsburg to the Supreme Court. She assumed the role on August 10, 1993.

The Court:We therefore conclude that, by according differential treatment to male and female members of the uniformed services for the sole purpose of achieving administrative convenience, the challenged statutes violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment insofar as they require a female member to prove the dependency of her husband.”

Hear Ruth Bader Ginsburg argue the case before the Supreme Court: http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1972/1972_71_1694

Don’t miss: Linda Hirshman, Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World (2015)

Learn more about the ACLU and women’s rights: https://www.aclu.org/human-rights/womens-rights

Read: Gail Collins, When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present (2009)

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