Frontiero v. Richardson

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Sharron Frontiero was a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force who also happened to be a married woman. At the time of her lawsuit, federal law automatically awarded a salary supplement and housing allowance to married men in the service, but married women received the supplement and allowance only if they could prove they paid more than half their husbands living expenses.

Frontiero argued that the law treated her differently just because she was a woman, thus violating her constitutional right to equal protection. Although the Court found in her favor, the justices could not agree on the legal standard of review that should be used in gender discrimination cases. In other words, Frontiero won, but women would have to wait several more years before the Court figured out how to judge gender discrimination cases.


 Frontiero v. Richardson


411 U.S. 677 (1973)


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. 

341 F.Supp. 201, reversed.

To read the rest of the opinion in Frontiero v. Richardson, go to Nolos US Supreme Court Center.

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