Classifications based upon sex, like classifications based upon race, alienage, or national origin, are inherently suspect, and must therefore be subjected to strict judicial scrutiny.
Appellants, female military personnel, filed an action contending that the statutory difference in treatment of male and female military personnel for purposes of determining "dependent" benefits under 37 U.S.C.S. §§ 401, 403 and 10 U.S.C.S. §§ 1072, 1076 violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The district court rejected appellants' contention and appellants sought review. Appellants asserted that the discriminatory impact of the statutes was twofold: first, as a procedural matter, a female member was required to demonstrate her spouse's dependency, while no such burden was imposed upon male members; and, second, as a substantive matter, a male member who did not provide more than one-half of his wife's support received benefits, while a similarly situated female member was denied such benefits.
Was the challenged statute constitutional?
The court reversed, holding that the challenged statutory scheme involved the very kind of arbitrary legislative choice forbidden by the United States Constitution because it drew a sharp line between appellants, female military personnel, and their counterparts, solely for the purpose of achieving administrative convenience, necessarily commanding dissimilar treatment for men and women who were similarly situated.