Frontiero v. Richardson

Key Facts– The uniformed services permitted a husband to claim his wife as dependent, but did not allow a wife to claim her husband as such, for allowance and benefits purposes. Lieutenant Frontiero sues to obtain the ability to claim her husband as a defendant under the uniformed services’ rules.

Issues– Does gender constitute a suspect category of discrimination under the Constitution? Is it unconstitutional for a government organization to discriminate based on gender in allocation of benefits?

Holding– Maybe and yes.

Result– Policy scheme overturned

Reasoning– Women, like minorities, have faced significant discrimination through American history. Here, the law violates basic norms in allocating legal burdens in an unnecessarily discriminatory way. Not all justices (only four) join the opinion that sex-based discrimination requires strict scrutiny, however.

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