Key Facts– Here, Texas made it a crime to have intimate contact with members of the same sex. Lawrence appeals his conviction under the statute.
Issue– Does a statute prohibiting homosexual conduct violate the Due Process right to liberty?
Result– Law overturned
Reasoning– Sexual conduct and lifestyle choices related to it should be respected by the state. This is a part of the “realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter.” Further, there is no legitimate state interest that justifies this.
Key Facts– Colorado passed an amendment to its constitution to prevent the passage of laws protecting homosexual and bisexual people.
Issue– Is this a violation of Equal Protection?
Result– Amendment stricken
Reasoning– This law changes the legal status of homosexual and bisexual people as a group, preventing them from receiving any protection from discrimination, now or in the future. This desire to effectively harm a vulnerable group that is politically unpopular can never constitute a legitimate state interest.
Key Facts– Virginia Military Institute (VMI), a public military college, admitted only men. Virginia’s discrimination against women was ruled unconstitutional in the Fourth Circuit.
Issues– Does VMI’s exclusion of women violate Equal Protection? If so, what is the remedy?
Holding– Yes. The remedy is to end the exclusion.
Result– VMI opened to women
Reasoning– There is no “exceedingly persuasive justification” for the state discrimination here. Rational basis is not enough, given the long national history of discrimination against women.
Key Facts– Oklahoma passed a statute prohibiting some alcohol sales to men and women below a certain age, with the age being 21 for men and 18 for women.
Issue– Does a gender-based differential like this in a law violate the Equal Protection Clause?
Result– Law overturned
Reasoning– As established by earlier cases, gender-based differentials in law are subject to some degree of scrutiny under Equal Protection. Statistical evidence offered here was insufficient to justify the regulation, and even if it was accepted as conclusive, the studies discussed would be insufficient to justify gender-based discrimination. This is clearly a higher standard than the rational basis test, though it is not strict scrutiny.
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.
Key Facts– The schools in this case chose to adopt student assignment plans relying on race to determine which schools children would attend. Parents sue, because their children were excluded from some potential schools solely based on race.
Issue– Can a public school system classify students by race and rely on that in making school assignments?
Holding– Only if necessary to correct past discrimination
Result– Racial classification plan overturned, lower court overruled
Reasoning– Only one of the two school districts discussed ever had a segregation program in the past. At present, its past segregation has already been remedied. There is no legitimate rationale for the present system that would survive the Court’s strict scrutiny. Further, the Chief Justice argues: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
Key Facts– A qualifying test used to select police officers in Washington, D.C. is challenged here, because it apparently led to inequality of result in terms of the racial composition of the police force.
Issue– If a government policy has an unequal impact on different groups, yet is designed for neutral ends, should it be held to strict scrutiny?
Result– Test affirmed
Reasoning– This test is neutral on its face. If the Equal Protection Clause can be applied to strike down policies that are neutral,but may lead to discriminatory outcomes, there is virtually no limit to its application.
Key Facts– The California Department of Corrections (CDC) had an unwritten policy of racially segregating prisoners for up to 60 days when they entered a new corrections facility. Petitioner sues to overturn this policy.
Issue– Is strict scrutiny the proper standard of review for this policy?
Result– Strict scrutiny applied to all race-based classifications by the state, with this particular classification remanded for consideration in that light
Reasoning– All government racial classifications are subject to strict scrutiny, because there is a presumption they have a sinister purpose, or could have. Thus, the government must be pursuing a very important end to be permitted to discriminate, and it must actually achieve, or be critical to achieving, that end. Separate is, as a matter of law, not equal. At the same time, prison systems are a place where government power is at its apex, so their obligation to prove they had a prison safety interest in this policy is not completely fatal.
Key Facts– A Florida court made a ruling divesting a mother of custody of her infant child, because she remarried to a person of a different race.
Issue– Is private racial bias and the possible injury it might inflict on a child a permissible consideration in removing an infant from its mother’s custody?
Result– Mother’s custody restored
Reasoning– The Constitution does not tolerate prejudice. While it cannot eliminate private prejudices, the law must never give it effect.
Key Facts– During World War II, people of Japanese ancestry were “excluded” from certain areas, without Due Process. This was to prevent espionage and sabotage. Korematsu sued in opposition to this, after having been convicted for remaining in San Leandro, California.
Issue– Is this order, if based in sufficient grounds in terms of military necessity, constitutional?
Result– Exclusion order upheld
Reasoning– Military necessity justifies actions against potential threats. Because there was evidence that some Japanese Americans were disloyal, and there was no efficient way to separate the loyal from the disloyal, this necessitated action against the group as a whole. This was not based in racism per se, and at the time, it seemed justified, so the Court declines to impose the knowledge they have in the present in judging the past decision.