Brief Fact Summary. The Respondent, Hogan (Respondent), was denied admission to Mississippi University for Women’s (MUW) nursing program solely on the basis of gender. He now alleges this is a denial of equal protection.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A state may not preclude one gender or the other from participating in a unique educational environment solely on the basis of gender.
Issue. Does the operation of a female only nursing school by a State violate Equal Protection?
Held. Yes. Appeals Court ruling affirmed.
Applying intermediate scrutiny, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (J. O’Connor) notes that the State of Mississippi has not advanced an important state interest for operating a single sex nursing school. In particular, she notes that women did not lack opportunities to be trained as nurses in Mississippi without the presence of MUW.
J. O’Connor also argues that the means to achieving even an important governmental objective (although she found none) are absent, as MUW allows male auditors in the nursing classes. If men are already in the classroom, the state is not technically operating a single-sex nursing program.
Dissent. Justice Lewis Powell (J. Powell) argues that the Respondent has not suffered a cognizable injury, as there were state-operated nursing programs that accepted men elsewhere in the state and there is no right to attend a state-run university close to one’s hometown.
Discussion. The majority focuses on whether Mississippi may discriminate against men in admission to nursing programs. However, there are two powerful arguments brought up by the dissent. The first is the lack of injury argument – without injury a case is not ripe, and the constitutional issue may not be reached. There is also the argument that as there is no unique educational opportunity here (there are nursing programs accepting men in the State college system), the state is not denying opportunities to men.