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With the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens, Ginsburg became the senior member of what was sometimes referred to as the court’s “liberal wing” .When the court split 5–4 along ideological lines and the liberal justices were in the minority, Ginsburg often had the authority to assign authorship of the dissenting opinion because of her seniority.Ginsburg was a proponent of the liberal dissenters speaking “with one voice” and, where practicable, presenting a unified approach to which all the dissenting justices can agree.


Ginsburg authored the court’s opinion in United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515 (1996), which struck down the Virginia Military Institute’s (VMI) male-only admissions policy as violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. For Ginsburg, a state actor could not use gender to deny women equal protection, therefore VMI must allow women the opportunity to attend VMI with its unique educational methods.Ginsburg emphasized that the government must show an “exceedingly persuasive justification” to use a classification based on sex. VMI proposed a separate institute for women, but Ginsburg found this solution reminiscent of the effort by Texas decades earlier to preserve the University of Texas Law School for Whites by establishing a separate school for Blacks.

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