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Mississippi Univ. For Women v. Hogan

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Brief Fact Summary.

Mississippi University for Women (MUW) is a single-sex collegiate institution maintained by the state of Mississippi. Hogan, who was otherwise qualified for admission to the school’s nursing program, was denied admission on the basis of being male.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The single-sex admissions policy of the Mississippi University for Women’s School for Nursing violates the Equal Protection Clause.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

In limited circumstances, a gender-based classification favoring one sex can be justified if it intentionally and directly assists members of the sex that is disproportionately burdened.

View Full Point of Law
Facts.

Mississippi University for Women (MUW), the oldest state-supported all-female college in the United States, denied Hogan admission to its School of Nursing solely because of his sex. The state’s primary justification for maintaining the single-sex admissions policy of MUW’s School of Nursing is that it compensates for discrimination against women and is thus a form of educational affirmative action. Hogan argues that MUW’s single-sex admissions policy is a denial of equal protection.

Issue.

Does MUW’s policy of excluding men from enrollment in MUW’s nursing school violate the Equal Protection Clause?

Held.

Yes, MUW’s policy of excluding men from enrollment in MUW’s nursing school violates the Equal Protection Clause.

Dissent.

Justice Powell

The equal protection standard generally applicable to sex discrimination is not appropriate here. That standard was designed to free women from “archaic and overbroad generalizations.” In no previous case has this Court applied it to invalidate state efforts to expand women’s choices. By applying heightened equal protection analysis here, the Court frustrates the liberating spirit of the Equal Protection Clause.

Discussion.

The state did not provide an “exceedingly persuasive justification” for the gender-based distinction. The state’s argument that the policy constituted educational affirmative action for women is unpersuasive because women traditionally have not lacked opportunities to enter nursing. If anything, the single-sex admission policy of MUW’s nursing school tends to perpetuate the stereotyped view of nursing as a woman’s job.  Additionally, MUW’s policy of permitting men to attend classes as auditors undermines its claim that women attending the nursing school are adversely affected by the presence of men.


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