This research paper discusses the decision by the Supreme Court in United States v. Virginia et al. 518 U.S. 515 of June 26, 1996 which effectively ended the single-sex admissions policy of Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and explores the legal analysis underpinning the Court's holding and its impact and implications for the future.
After a protracted battle in federal courts, the Supreme Court decided by a seven-to-one majority that VMI's all-male admission policy violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The majority acknowledged that VMI's adversative method of instruction for training citizen-soldiers was unique and had substantial value. However, Justice Ruth Ginsburg for the majority said that its admissions policy had failed to pass a "heightened scrutiny" test because the state of Virginia had failed to establish "an exceedingly persuasive justification" for the way in which it classified the genders for admission purposes.
She said the true purpose of that admissions policy was not to further a legitimate state interest in promoting diversity in higher education but rather to discriminate against women. She found that VMI's remedial program (VWIL discussed below) did not offer women a comparable opportunity to experience the rigorous military training and other educational experiences that VMI offered to men. Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote a concurring opinion, and Justice Anthony Scalia a withering dissenting opinion.
The implications of the Court's decision for VMI was that it had had to either accept women, which it decided to do, or privatize. The full parameters of the decision for the continued existence of single-sex colleges and universities and experiments with single-sex public schools are as yet uncertain.
Facts. For 157 years, VMI, a public university chartered under Virginia law and the recipient of federal financial assistance, had offered a un...