BY LILLI FLEMING – Gender equality is a phrase that suggests all men and women were created equal. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a very successful woman who fought for what she believed in. One of the things she fought for was gender equality. The United States v. Virginia case was one of the many gender equality cases Justice Ginsburg fought for.
The United States v. Virginia involved a university in Virginia that didn’t follow gender equality rules. The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) is a prestigious military college. Before 1996, VMI had a stringent male-only admission policy. Justice Ginsburg stated that this admission policy violated the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause because it failed to show “exceedingly persuasive justification”. The state of Virginia wanted to fulfill the requirements of the equal protection clause and created the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL).
However, Justice Ginsburg was not pleased with this adjustment; Ginsburg declared, “The VWIL program is a pale shadow of the VMI in terms of the range of curricular choices and faculty stature, funding, prestige, alumni support, and influence.” She felt women should have the opportunity to attend VMI. Chief Justice William Rehnquist agreed that striking down the VMI admission policy was fundamental. But, he also stated that if Virginia would have offered duplicate standards and quality at VWIL and VMI, the infraction of the 14th amendment would no longer stand.
After this, the high court dismissed any laws that included the denial of women’s entry if the law was put into place only because women were not men. When these laws were rejected, VMI wanted to privatize their university. If they did this, they would be exempt from the 14th Amendment and the new ruling. In response, the Department of Defense (DOD) warned VMI that they would withdraw all ROTC programs at the school if they privatized themselves. Luckily, the Board of Visitors at VMI voted and revised the admission policy to allow women into the school prior to Congress prohibiting the DOD from removing the ROTC programs. VMI was the last all-male public college.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg opened up opportunities for women by fighting for what she believed in – gender equality. Many women would not have served our country if it wasn’t for Justice Ginsburg. Furthermore, she didn’t stop at gender equality in the military. Ginsburg fought for gender equality in all places, such as women’s voting rights, women’s rights to own property, and even women’s rights to own a credit card.
Justice Ginsburg passed away September 18, 2020, but her presence and her impact on gender equality rights will not be forgotten.