A Virginia law provided that a person with a mental illness could be sterilized for the benefit of the person and society. Sterilization decisions were made by the mental hospital in which the person resided. Carrie Buck (plaintiff) had a mental illness and was a patient at a mental hospital. After several months of observing Buck, the mental hospital and state superintendent (defendant) ordered her to be sterilized. Buck brought suit, claiming the law violated her substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Buck also argued the law violated her equal protection rights in that the sterilization law was not applicable to people outside of mental institutions. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.