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Equal Protection

Equal Protection

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Home Civics Equal Protection History Gender Discrimination and the Law

Gender Discrimination and the Law

  • In 1976 case Craig v. Boren, Supreme Court ruled on constitutionality of laws that treated men and women differently
  • Craig v. Boren originated as lawsuit challenging Oklahoma's different minimum drinking ages for men (21) and women (18)

Should a state be allowed to set different legal drinking ages for men and women? What if the differing ages are linked to questions of public health and safety? What if these health and safety concerns are supported by statistical evidence?

The courts have ruled on dozens of state laws that drew distinctions between men and women. And, frankly, most of them dealt with more substantive matters than the drinking age. But the legal questions underneath Oklahoma's dual drinking ages (in the early 1970s, Oklahoma women could drink at age 18 while men had to wait until age 21) were the same as those underlying state laws on women jurors and national conscription requirements. And the Court's ruling in Craig v. Boren set an important precedent regarding the degree of scrutiny that the courts would apply to state laws that treated men and women differently.

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