Hess v. Schlesinger Historic Case

At a Glance

Date Filed: 


Case Description 

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) took on the case of Hess v. Schlesinger in 1973 because it concerned the treatment of women as an extension of their husbands. 

In this case, CCR challenged the constitutionality of the Marine Corps regulation prohibiting wives of Marines from visiting husbands stationed in the Western Pacific (not Vietnam) more than once during a tour of duty or for longer than 60 days. If a woman disobeyed this regulation, her husband was transferred (as Corporal Hess was), or court-martialed.

During the trial, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the government's chief witness, explained that wives of Marines were incompetent to handle their affairs if left in Japan on their own. Without waiting for the briefs, the judge decided that the rule was unconstitutional. The Marine Corps later rescinded it.