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Craig v. Boren

    Brief Fact Summary. Oklahoma State maintained different drinking ages between men and women for the consumption of 3.2% alcohol beer. The Appellant, Craig (Appellant), now alleges that this difference violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution).

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Gender-based classifications must satisfy intermediate scrutiny requirements to pass constitutional muster.

    Facts. The State of Oklahoma prohibited the sale of “nonintoxicating” 3.2% alcohol beer to men under the age of 21 and women under the age of 18. Suit was brought against the State, alleging the law violated the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

    Issue. Does the Oklahoma statute violate the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution?

    Held. Yes. Appeals Court ruling reversed and remanded.
    Justice William Brennan (J. Brennan) argues that case precedent dictates that an intermediate level of scrutiny should be applied in analyzing the statute. Specifically, the gender-based classification must serve an important government objective and be substantially related to the achievement of such objective.
    The District Court unequivocally found that the objective to be served by the statute is increased traffic safety. J. Brennan is not persuaded by the Appellees’, Craig and others (Appellees), statistics that the statute closely serves the stated objective. As such, it is not constitutional.

    Dissent. Justice William Rehnquist (J. Rehnquist) dissents on two levels. He believes that rational basis analysis is the appropriate level of scrutiny for gender-based classification. Furthermore, he believes that the intermediate scrutiny applied by the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) is so “diaphanous and elastic” as to encourage judicial prejudice.

    Discussion. Craig v. Boren establishes intermediate scrutiny as the appropriate level of review for gender-based classification. Intermediate scrutiny is distinguished from strict scrutiny at both the objective and means levels. Important government objectives (intermediate) v. compelling government objectives (strict) and substantially related (intermediate) v. narrowly tailored (strict).


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