1996 June 26

VMI Ordered to Admit Women


Virginia Military Institute (VMI) is a state-run military college that had historically been open only to men. The ACLU sued the State of Virginia for violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by not allowing women. In United States v. Virginia, decided on this day, the Supreme Court ordered the state to admit women to VMI.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who as Director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project in the 1970s was involved in the first successful women’s rights cases, arguing that the Equal Protection Clause protected women (Reed v. Reed, November 22, 1971; Frontiero v. Richardson, May 14, 1973).

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s opinion: “A prime part of the history of our Constitution . . . is the story of the extension of constitutional rights and protections to people once ignored or excluded. VMI’s story continued as our comprehension of ‘We the People’ expanded. There is no reason to believe that the admission of women capable of all the activities required of VMI cadets would destroy the Institute rather than enhance its capacity to serve the ‘more perfect Union.’”

Read: Philippa Strum, Women in the Barracks: The VMI Case and Equal Rights (2002)

See the VMI Women’s Rugby Team in Action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zgo8mIBQKRw

Listen to the oral arguments in the case: http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_94_1941

Learn more: Evelyn Monahan and Rosemary Neidel Greenlee, A Few Good Women: America’s Military Women from World War I to the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (2010)

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