William J. Brennan, Jr.: Opinion in Craig v. Boren

(1976)

The U.S. Supreme Court case of Craig v. Boren (1976) introduced the “intermediate scrutiny” test to assess government actions based on gender. Oklahoma had passed a statute prohibiting the sale of "nonintoxicating" 3.2% beer to males under the age of twenty-one while permitting females over the age of eighteen to purchase it. Two young men, Mark Walker and Curtis Craig, brought suit, challenging the law as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause; they were joined by an alcohol vendor, Carolyn Whitener. The lower courts dismissed the case, saying that the state of Oklahoma had the right to regulate commerce in alcoholic beverages. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court. Writing for the majority, William J. Brennan held that the gender classifications set in place by the Oklahoma law were indeed unconstitutional. He went on to enunciate the “intermediate” standard of scrutiny for determining the constitutionality of sex-based classifications in...

Image for: William J. Brennan, Jr.: Opinion in Craig v. Boren

William J. Brennan, Jr. (Library of Congress)

View Full Size