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Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan

Citation. 458 U.S. 718, 102 S.Ct. 3331, 73 L.Ed.2d 1090 (1982).

Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiff sues after being denied admission to nursing school.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The party seeking to uphold a statute that classifies individuals on the basis of their gender must carry the burden of showing an exceeding persuasive justification for the classification. The burden is met by showing the classification serves an important government objective and the discriminatory means employed are substantially related to the achievement of those objectives.


Defendant was the oldest state-supported, all-female college in the U.S. The college, including its School of Nursing, only admitted women. Plaintiff was a registered nurse and applied to the bachelor’s of nursing program. Despite being otherwise qualified, he was denied admission based solely on his sex. Plaintiff challenged in the decision on Equal Protection grounds.


Whether the admissions policy violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.


Yes. The admissions policy violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.


Justice Burgher

I agree with J. Blackmun. Also, today’s holding is limited to the context of a professional nursing school.

Justice Blackmun

It is easy to go too far with rigid rules. The Court is trying to destroy values that mean a lot to some people.

Justice Powell

The Court’s opinion bows deeply to conformity. The Court in effect holds today that no state may provide even a single institution of higher learning open only to women students. Equal Protection was never intended to be applied to this kind of case.


The state’s primary justification for maintaining the single-sex administration policy is that it compensates for discrimination against women, and therefore constitutes educational affirmative active. The argument is unpersuasive. Mere recitation of a benign, compensatory purpose is not an automatic shield.

By excluding males, Defendant perpetuates the stereotyped view of nursing as an exclusively women’s job. The state fails because it has made no showing that the gender based classification is substantially and directly related to its proposed compensatory objected. Judgement affirmed.

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