Craig v. Boren
Argued October 5, 1976
Decided December 20, 1976
Full case nameCraig et al. v. Boren, Governor of Oklahoma, et al.
Citations429 U.S. 190 (more)
97 S. Ct. 451; 50 L. Ed. 2d 397; 1976 U.S. LEXIS 183
Case history
PriorDismissed, Walker v. Hall, 399 F. Supp. 1304 (W.D. Okla. 1975), probable jurisdiction noted sub. nom., Craig v. Boren, 423 U.S. 1047 (1976).
SubsequentRehearing denied, 429 U.S. 1124 (1977).
To regulate in a sex-discriminatory fashion, the government must demonstrate that its use of sex-based criteria is substantially related to the achievement of important governmental objectives.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices
William J. Brennan Jr. · Potter Stewart
Byron White · Thurgood Marshall
Harry Blackmun · Lewis F. Powell Jr.
William Rehnquist · John P. Stevens
Case opinions
MajorityBrennan, joined by White, Marshall, Powell, Stevens
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. XIV
This case overturned a previous ruling or rulings
Goesaert v. Cleary (1948)

Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190 (1976), was a landmark decision of the US Supreme Court ruling that statutory or administrative sex classifications were subject to intermediate scrutiny under the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.[1]


Oklahoma passed a statute prohibiting the sale of "nonintoxicating" 3.2% beer to males under the age of 21 but allowed females over the age of 18 to purchase it. The statute was challenged as a Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause violation by Curtis Craig, a male who was over 18 but under 21, and Carolyn Whitener, an Oklahoma vendor of alcohol.[2] The nominal defendant was David Boren, who was sued ex officio by virtue of his serving as Governor of Oklahoma at the time of the lawsuit. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, working as an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, advised the plaintiff's attorney, submitted an amicus brief, and was present at counsel table during oral argument before the Supreme Court.[3]

The Supreme Court was called upon to determine whether a statute that denied the sale of beer to individuals of the same age based on their gender violated the Equal Protection Clause. Also, the Supreme Court examined for jus tertii (third-party rights), in this case the vendor of the 3.2% beer.


Justice William J. Brennan delivered the opinion of the Court in which he was joined by justices White, Marshall, Powell and Stevens (Justice Blackmun joined all but one part of the opinion, and Blackmun, Powell, Stevens, and Stewart wrote concurrences).[1]

Majority opinion

The Court held that the gender classifications made by the Oklahoma statute were unconstitutional because the statistics relied on by the state were insufficient to show a substantial relationship between the statute and the benefits intended to stem from it.

The Court instituted a standard, dubbed "intermediate scrutiny," under which the state must prove the existence of specific important governmental objectives, and the law must be substantially related to the achievement of those objectives.

As to third-party rights, the court, expanding on the doctrine of standing, held that the vendors of 3.2% beer would be economically affected by the restrictive nature of the sales to males between 18 and 20. To have standing, one must show a "nexus" of the injury to oneself and the constitutional violation of the statute. In this case, the statute directly affected Whitener only economically, but the Supreme Court explained that Whitener and other vendors have standing to assert concomitant rights of other parties, such as Craig.

The Court acknowledged that parties economically affected by regulations may challenge them "by acting as advocates of the rights of third parties who seek access to their market or function."

Concurring opinion

Justice Blackmun wrote a concurring opinion, agreeing that a higher standard of scrutiny was appropriate.

Dissenting opinions

Chief Justice Burger and Justice Rehnquist dissented.

Rehnquist dissented because he felt that the law needed to pass only "rational basis," as previous cases in the area, such as Stanton v. Stanton, had used only the "rational basis" test.

Burger was "in general agreement with Mr. Justice Rehnquist's dissent" but penned a separate dissent to emphasize that "a litigant may only assert his own constitutional rights or immunities." He felt that the indirect economic injury to Whitener and other vendors introduced "a new concept of constitutional standing to which I cannot subscribe."

See also



  1. ^ a b Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190 (1976).
  2. ^ "The Supreme Court Historical Society - Learning Center - Women's Rights". Retrieved December 2, 2017.
  3. ^ Williams, Wendy Webster (2013). "Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Equal Protection Clause: 1970-80". Retrieved December 2, 2017.