Movie Screening and Panel Discussion to Explore VMI Gender Integration

Lexington, VA • Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Prof. Ann Massie
On Monday, Nov. 1, Washington and Lee University School of Law will host a movie screening and discussion on the legal challenge that ended the Virginia Military Institute’s status as an all-male institution.

The event will begin at 4:00 p.m. in the Millhiser Moot Court Room, Sydney Lewis Hall on the campus of Washington and Lee. The event is free and open to the public.

The event will begin with a screening of a documentary film exploring U.S. v. Virginia, the case that ultimately opened VMI to women.  The film, part of Duke University School of Law’s “Voices of American Law” video project,” was directed by Duke law professor Thomas B. Metzloff.

In the case, the United States brought suit against Virginia and VMI alleging that the school's male-only admissions policy violated the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause. In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court held in a 7-1 decision that VMI's male-only admissions policy was in fact unconstitutional. Justice Clarence Thomas, whose son was enrolled at VMI at the time, recused himself from the case.

“The result of United States v. Virginia was really dictated by a Supreme Court case that preceded it by 14 years, Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan,” says Prof. Ann Massie, a W&L law professor and constitutional law expert.  “It was fascinating to watch both the federal district court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals basically try to dodge the inevitable answer for that long.”

The documentary screening will be followed by a panel discussion including Metzloff, Laura Brodie, author of the book Breaking Out: VMI and the Coming of Women, Ann Marie Whitmore, legal counsel for VMI in the litigation that led to the Supreme Court case and a law partner at McGuireWoods, Michael Strickler, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent at VMI, and W&L law professor and constitutional law expert Russell Miller.

Massie, who will moderate the panel discussion, commented frequently on the case as it made its way through the courts. She notes that while the immediate case impacted only VMI and The Citadel, it called into question the constitutional validity of any single-sex state-run institution of higher education. 

Adds Massie, “What we don’t know is whether a state might be able to operate single-sex high schools, especially those based on particular needs or aimed at particular disadvantaged segments of the population.”

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