Brief Fact Summary. The Respondent, Joe Hogan (Respondent), challenged the woman’s only admission policy after being denied admission into a nursing program solely on the basis of gender.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A women’s only admission’s policy is constitutional when it is supported by a significant government interests and is substantially related to the governmental objective.
The mere recitation of a benign, compensatory purpose is not an automatic shield which protects against any inquiry into the actual purposes underlying a statutory scheme.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether a state statute that excludes males from enrolling in a state-supported professional nursing school violates the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution).
Held. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (J. O’Connor) Yes. The State failed to show that the admission policy “serve[d] ‘important governmental objectives and that discriminatory means employed’ are ‘substantially related to the achievement of those objectives’.”
The Petitioner provides no basis for gender-based classifications in its admission’s policy. There is “no showing that women lacked opportunities to obtain training in the field of nursing or to attain positions of leadership in that field when the MUW School of Nursing opened its door or that women currently are deprived of such opportunities.”
The Petitioner’s policy, also, “is not substantially and directly related to its proposed compensatory objective. MUW’s policy of allowing men to attend classes as auditors and to participate in continuing education courses with female students undermines its claim that women are adversely affected by the presence of men.”
Dissent. The dissenting opinions are as follows:
Chief Justice Warren Burger (J. Burger). The Supreme Court of the United States’ holding is limited to professional nursing schools. “Since the Court’s opinion relies heavily on its finding that women have traditionally dominated the nursing profession, it suggests that a State might well be justified in maintaining, for example, the option of an all-women’s business school or liberal arts program.”
Justice Harry (J. Blackmun). If the Supreme Court continues to be rigid in its application of sex discrimination rules, it will increase the risk of States losing its ability to offer its citizens with choices in their educational endeavors while “not depriving others of an alternate choice . . . .”
Justice Lewis Powel (J. Powell). The Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution does not apply to this case because the Respondent is only arguing that “he has the right to attend a college in his home community.”
Discussion. If a state’s expressed governmental interest is inconsistent with the expressed governmental objective, the classified-gender discrimination cannot be upheld under constitutional standards.