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The New Federalism
The Court strikes the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, which had made it a federal offense "for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone." In passing the act, Congress had invoked its power to regulate interstate commerce, which it had used in the past to limit the manufacture and sale of guns available for sale in more than one state. In United States v. Lopez, however, the Court holds that Congress has exceeded its authority and that the power to regulate this type of criminal behavior belongs to the states.

The Court holds, in Vernonia School District v. Acton, that a public school requirement that student athletes consent to random drug testing is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure. The decision states that the testing falls within a school's legitimate interest in protecting its students' well-being. In 2002, in the case Board of Education v. Earls, the Court will extend the decision to include random drug testing for students in non-athletic extracurricular activities as well.

Photo of a sign protesting the Court's decision in Bush v. Gore.
As a result of the landmark 1996 gender discrimination case United States v. Virginia, the Virginia Military Institute was compelled to admit female cadets into its ranks for the first time.

Reproduction courtesy of the Virginia Military Institute.
The Court votes 7-1 to strike the long-standing male-only admission policy at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), the nation's last all-male public school as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Writing for the majority in United States v. Virginia, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg states that VMI has failed to show "exceedingly persuasive justification" for its gender-biased admissions.

In a narrowly crafted opinion penned by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the Court overturns a 1985 decision and holds that it is constitutionally permissible for public school teachers to instruct parochial school students in neutral settings. The decision in Agostini v. Felton states that governments may constitutionally direct some educational funds to parochial schools without violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

In one of the first cases dealing with the Internet to reach the Supreme Court -- Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union -- the Court strikes as unconstitutional the 1996 Communications Decency Act. The decision states that the act, which had criminalized the online transmission of "obscene or indecent" material, is overly broad and vague.

The Court votes 6-3 to strike the Line Item Veto Act as a violation of the Presentment Clause of the Constitution. The Court's ruling in Clinton v. New York states that the president must entirely approve or reject legislation that has passed both houses of Congress, and that by allowing the president to selectively veto portions of bills, the act had unconstitutionally extended to the executive the right to "amend" the laws before him.