Craig v. Boren

Following is the case brief for Craig v. Boren, United States Supreme Court, (1976)

Case summary for Craig v. Boren:

  • Craig, an Oklahoma liquor vendor challenged the constitutionality of an Oklahoma statute which prohibited the sale of “nonintoxicating” 3.2 percent beer to males under the age of 21.
  • The district court upheld the statute and Craig appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.
  • The Court held that the statute was unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
  • A gender based classification is subject to intermediate scrutiny, which means the classification must be substantially related to achieving an important government purpose. The Court did not find that the classification was substantially related to achieving that stated government interest.

Craig v. Boren Case Brief

Statement of the facts:

In Oklahoma, a state statute was passed which prohibited the sale of “nonintoxicating” 3.2 percent beer to males under the age of 21. An Oklahoma liquor vendor brought suit against state official Boren claiming the law violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.  Statistical evidence was offered in support of the discrimination based on gender and the state claimed the discrimination was substantially related to achieving the government’s interest in traffic safety.

Procedural History:

At trial, the district court upheld the statute. Craig then appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Rule of Law or Legal Principle Applied:

Gender discrimination is subject to intermediate scrutiny and is therefore constitutional if it is substantially related to achieving an important government interest.

Issue and Holding:

Does a statue denying the sale of alcohol to an individual based on gender violate the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause? Yes.

Judgment:

The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court.

Reasoning:

The Court held that the appropriate standard of review of discrimination on the basis of gender is intermediate scrutiny.  Under this level of scrutiny, the classification must be substantially related to achieving an important government purpose. Here, Boren claims the statute is related to achieving the government’s goal of traffic safety through statistical evidence. The evidence shows that .18 percent of females under the age of 21 are arrested for driving under the influence, in contrast 2 percent of males in the same age bracket are arrested.

The Court held that the difference is significant, but it is not enough to justify a broad rule to prohibit the sale of alcohol to males and not females in the relevant age group.  The Court also pointed out that no evidence has been offered to show the dangerousness of 3.2 percent alcohol use as opposed to simply alcohol.  As a result, no justification exists and the Oklahoma law equates to a denial of Equal Protection to males between the ages of 18 and 20.

Concurring or Dissenting opinion:

Concurring (Stevens):

The statistics provided do not conclusively show males are more likely to drive drunk than females.

Concurring (Powell):

Classifications based on gender are subject to strict scrutiny, not intermediate.

Concurring (Blackmun):

Classifications should be subject to intermediate scrutiny and the 21st Amendment does not save the Oklahoma statute.

Dissenting (Burger):

Classifications based on gender should be subject to rational basis review. The legislature did not act irrationally in reaching their decision based on statistical evidence.

Dissenting (Rehnquist):

The majority should have applied a rational basis level of review. Case law and the Equal Protection Clause do not establish that regulations based on gender “must be substantially related to an important government purpose.”

Significance:

Craig v. Boren established the level of scrutiny under which discrimination based on gender must be subjected to. The intermediate level of scrutiny is still used for classifications based on gender today.

Student Resources:

https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/429/190/case.html
https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/429/190

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