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High court lets gender equity rulings stand

graphic April 21, 1997
Web posted at: 1:39 p.m. EDT (1739 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Supreme Court Monday let stand without comment rulings that Brown University discriminated against its women athletes by stripping funding from its women's varsity volleyball and gymnastics teams.

Lower court rulings held that Brown violated Title IX, a 1972 law that bans discrimination in education based on gender.

The Providence, Rhode Island, school cut the programs as part of a budget reduction that also eliminated the men's varsity golf and water polo programs in 1991. The move affected 37 male athletes and 23 female athletes.

Some of the affected women filed suit against the university.

Brown's attorneys had argued that the school would be forced to "cut academic offerings (or) cut teams for men" to avoid liability or loss of federal funds under Title IX.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that "any determination of non-discrimination must .. compare the participation opportunities provided for men with those provided for women." This does not, they said, constitute a "quota" or "preference."

An appeals court held that schools must have "gender parity between its student body and its athletic lineup" or show strong progress in that direction. When the case went to trial in 1993, 51 percent of Brown's student body were women, while only 38 percent of its intercollegiate varsity athletes were women.

In other action Monday, the court:

  • Turned down without comment appeals by six Branch Davidians convicted on various charges stemming from the gun battle that began the 1993 standoff between the cult and federal agents near Waco, Texas. Six Davidians and four federal agents were killed in the gun battle. The 51-day standoff ended on April 19, when fire gutted the cult's compound, killing 79 members.

  • Ruled unanimously that parents cannot sue states to force compliance with a federal child-support enforcement program. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote for the court that the federal program was a "yardstick" to measure state programs' performance.

  • Rejected the government's attempt to force Texaco to pay at least $1 billion in taxes on Saudi Arabian oil it sold between 1979 and 1981. The Saudis sold the oil for lower prices than other oil-producing countries during that time, and Texaco's international subsidiaries earned substantial profits by buying at the lower price and selling at a higher market price after the oil was refined.

  • Let stand without comment a $1 million libel judgment against ABC-TV for a report that claimed a Georgia county's citizens were stuck with the bill for a garbage-recycling machine that was supposed to pay for itself with user fees. ABC reported that the machine "did not work." The machine's manufacturer, Lundell Manufacturing Co., sued. ABC said it meant the machine did not work as promised because it was not financially viable.

  • Set aside a ruling that would have forced the government to pay an aerospace company more than $100 million for infringement of a satellite-technology patent. The high court ordered an appeals court to take another look at the case -- involving Hughes Aircraft's patent for controlling satellite orientation -- in light of last month's ruling clarifying an element of patent law dealing with the similarity of inventions.

  • Asked the Justice Department to comment on a lawsuit accusing the maker of an artificial eye lens of causing injuries to those wearing the implant. The court will decide whether to grant a full review of an appeals court ruling -- which reinstated the lawsuit after a lower court dismissed it -- after hearing the government's views.

  • Agreed to decide if acceptance of a severance package precludes workers' ability to claim they were illegally forced to quit because of their age.


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