SCHLESINGER V. BALLARD, 419 U. S. 498 (1975)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Schlesinger v. Ballard, 419 U.S. 498 (1975)

Schlesinger v. Ballard

No. 73-776

Argued October 15, 1974

Decided January 15, 1975

419 U.S. 498


Appellee, a naval officer with more than nine years of active service, who failed for a second time to be selected for promotion and thus under 10 U.S.C. § 6382(a) was subject to mandatory discharge, brought this action claiming that application of that statute to him, when compared to 10 U.S.C. § 6401 (under which, had he been a woman officer, he would have been entitled to 13 years of commissioned service before a mandatory discharge for want of promotion), was an unconstitutional discrimination based on sex in violation of the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause. A three-judge District Court, relying on Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U. S. 677, concluded that the challenged mandatory discharge provisions are supported solely by considerations of fiscal and administrative policy, and upheld appellee's claim.

Held: The challenged legislative classification is completely rational, and does not violate the Due Process Clause. Pp. 419 U. S. 505-510.

(a) The different treatment of men and women naval officers under §§ 6382 and 6401 results not from mere administrative or fiscal convenience, but from the fact that female line officers, because of restrictions on their participating in combat and most sea duty, do not have opportunities for professional service equal to those of male line officers, and Congress could rationally conclude that a longer period of tenure for women officers comported with the goal of providing women officers with "fair and equitable career advancement programs." Frontiero v. Richardson, supra; Reed v. Reed, 404 U. S. 71, distinguished. Pp. 419 U. S. 505-508.

(b) In naval corps where male and female officers are similarly situated Congress, made no tenure distinctions, thus underscoring the rationality of the legislative classification. P. 419 U. S. 509.

(c) The challenged statutes further a flow of promotions commensurate with the Navy's current needs, and serve to motivate qualified commissioned officers so to conduct themselves that they may realistically anticipate higher command levels. P. 419 U. S. 510.

360 F.Supp. 643, reversed.

Page 419 U. S. 499

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which DOUGLAS and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 419 U. S. 511. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting statement, post, p. 419 U. S. 521.

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