Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

U.S. v. Morrison Supreme Court of the United States (2000)

Gender-based violence in general

The Court examined whether the Commerce Clause or the Fourteenth Amendment gave Congress the authority to enact portions of  the Violence Against Women Act ("VAWA") of 1994. In a 5-4 decision, the Court held that Congress lacked the authority to enact portions of the Act that allowed victims of gender-based violence to sue their attackers in federal court rather than state court. The Court held that Congress could not draw on the Commerce Clause for authority because violence against women was not an activity that substantially affected interstate commerce. The Court also held that the Act did not redress harm caused by state action and therefore did not fall under Congress's 14th amendment power. In his dissent, Justice Souter argued there was sufficient evidence to establish the effect of violence against women on interstate commerce.



U.S. v. Virginia Supreme Court [United States] (1996)

Gender discrimination

The Court was asked to determine the constitutionality of Virginia's decision to only admit men to the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), asking women to instead enroll at the all-women Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership (VWIL). In a 7-1 decision, the Court held that banning women from VMI was in violation of the 14th amendment. The Court held that Virginia had failed to give adequate reasoning for its decision to not admit women, and that women would not receive the same level of instruction at VWIL that they would receive at VMI.