It looks like service academies in US have some extensive requirements such as "Unmarried with no dependents or financial debt". How is this justified? I would expect a higher education institution/employer to be flooded with lawsuits if they ever use something like this.

  • Not all discrimination is illegal. Only the protected traits.
    – Terry
    Feb 8, 2016 at 11:21
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    A student in the service academies is on active duty; and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is a weird beast for consumer finance.
    – user662852
    Feb 8, 2016 at 13:43
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    @Terry protected traits can even be the basis for legal discrimination, for example if there's an actual connection between the trait in question and the ability to perform a job.
    – phoog
    Feb 8, 2016 at 18:37
  • They also have weight and fitness requirements, which could be discriminatory against certain groups. Though as stated, not illegal.
    – mikeazo
    Jun 8, 2016 at 12:35
  • this is clearly discriminate against marital status. The military just gets away with a lot of things... Fitness status is not protected as far as I know... Jun 11, 2016 at 20:01

3 Answers 3


There is no federal law against discrimination based on having debts or dependents. Marital status discrimination is prohibited for civil service employment, but USCG academy admidsion is not civil service employment. There is also a presidential order prohibiting discrimination based on parental status in federal employment, but again this is not employment and it is also not about parental status, it's about any kind of dependents. Since it's not prohibited, nobody would have standing to sue.


All students at the various U.S. Military academies are considered active duty members of the U.S. military and have taken the oath of induction prior to official enrollment. With regard to students at the service academies the Uniform Code of Military Justice supercedes certain civil protections afforded citizens who are not active duty members of the U.S. military.

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    In the old days they used to make all cadets attest they were not married after all leaves, making getting married an honor violation ==> automatic expulsion. Aug 8, 2016 at 3:41
  • In civilian employment or even at a private educational institution, this would be illegal under state and federal law, but not unconstitutional. Another way of explaining it is that the federal government can make its own rules and did so. And, no state law can bind a federal government entity. Since the discrimination does not involve a protected class, the discrimination is subject only to rational basis review for constitutional purposes. As an active duty student-soldier military institution, it meets the rational review test.
    – ohwilleke
    May 9, 2019 at 17:45
  • @ohwilleke Even if something were unconstitutional, the UCMJ supersedes certain constitutional protections for members of the military. They voluntarily waive those constitutional protections when they take the oath of induction.
    – Michael C
    May 10, 2019 at 1:55
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    @Michael If a statute related to the military is unconstitutional, it is void. A mandatory waiver upon being inducted into the military would not cure an unconstitutional requirement.
    – ohwilleke
    May 10, 2019 at 2:39

In general, discrimination is perfectly legal. You got the job and he didn't because your resume is better than his.

Some discrimination is illegal, details vary by jurisdiction, for example discrimination on the following bases is illegal in Australia:

  • race
  • colour
  • sex
  • sexual preference
  • age
  • physical or mental disability
  • marital status
  • family or carer’s responsibilities
  • pregnancy
  • religion
  • political opinion
  • national extraction
  • social origin

However, there are some organisations that are exempt, for example, a church can discriminate on the basis of religion and ASIS (Australia's CIA) is totally exempt. There is also a general exemption when one or more of these traits is a requirement of the job; this is especially relevant when hiring actors but a case can be made in other circumstances.

Positive discrimination is legal on the basis of a number of these traits.

Depending on the particulars of the law where you are, this is probably fine.

  • "Other circumstances": for example refusing to hire someone as a package handler because of a physical disability that prevents the handling of packages.
    – phoog
    Feb 9, 2016 at 16:09
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    @phoog that would be discrimination on the basis of capacity and legal. The fact that the incapacity arises from a disability is immaterial.
    – Dale M
    Feb 9, 2016 at 19:18

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