Frontiero v. Richardson
411 U.S. 677 (1973)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677 (1973)

Frontiero v. Richardson

No. 71-1694

Argued January 17, 1973

Decided May 14, 1973

411 U.S. 677

Syllabus

A married woman Air Force officer (hereafter appellant) sought increased benefits for her husband as a "dependent" under 37 U.S.C. §§ 401, 403, and 10 U.S.C. §§ 1072, 1076. Those statutes provide, solely for administrative convenience, that spouses of male members of the uniformed services are dependents for purposes of obtaining increased quarters allowances and medical and dental benefits, but that spouses of female members are not dependents unless they are in fact, dependent for over one-half of their support. When her application was denied for failure to satisfy the statutory dependency standard, appellant and her husband brought this suit in District Court, contending that the statutes deprived servicewomen of due process. From that Court's adverse ruling, they took a direct appeal.

Held: The judgment is reversed. Pp. 411 U. S. 682-691; 411 U. S. 691-692.

341 F.Supp. 201, reversed.

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, joined by MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, MR. JUSTICE WHITE, and MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, concluded that 37 U.S.C. §§ 401, 403 and 10 U.S.C. §§ 1072, 1076, as inherently suspect statutory classifications based on sex, are so unjustifiably discriminatory as to violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Pp. 411 U. S. 682-691.

MR. JUSTICE STEWART concluded that the challenged statutes work an invidious discrimination in violation of the Constitution. Reed v. Reed,404 U. S. 71. P. 411 U. S. 691.

MR. JUSTICE POWELL, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE and MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, while agreeing that the statutes deprive servicewomen of due process, concluded that, in the light of Reed v. Reed,404 U. S. 71, and the fact that the Equal Rights Amendment has been submitted to the States for ratification, it is inappropriate to decide at this time whether sex is a suspect classification. Pp. 411 U. S. 691-692.

Page 411 U. S. 678

BRENNAN, J., announced the Court's judgment and delivered an opinion, in which DOUGLAS, WHITE, and MARSHALL, JJ., joined. STEWART, J., filed a statement concurring in the judgment, post, p. 411 U. S. 691. POWELL, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN, J., joined, post, p. 411 U. S. 691. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting statement, post, p. 411 U. S. 691.

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Primary Holding

Heightened scrutiny applies to disparate treatment based on gender, so a law is unconstitutional if it gives benefits to the spouses of only male but not female service members.