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Craig v. Boren

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End date

Full case name
Craig et al. v. Boren, Governor of Oklahoma, et al.

429 U.S. 190 (more)97 S. Ct. 451; 50 L. Ed. 2d 397; 1976 U.S. LEXIS 183

Brennan, joined by White, Marshall, Powell, Stevens

Ruling court
Supreme Court of the United States

Craig v. Boren Case Brief Summary | Law Case Explained

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Craig v boren

Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190 (1976), was the first case in which a majority of the United States Supreme Court determined that statutory or administrative sex classifications were subject to intermediate scrutiny under the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.


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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 Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection violation by Curtis Craig, a male who was over 18 but under 21, and by an Oklahoma vendor of alcohol. 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.


The Supreme Court was called upon to determine whether a statute that denies the sale of beer to individuals of the same age based on their gender violates the Equal Protection Clause. Additionally, 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; Blackmun, Powell, Stevens, and Stewart wrote concurrences). 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", whereby 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 due to 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 explains 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 those regulations "by acting as advocates of the rights of third parties who seek access to their market or function."

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


Chief Justice Burger and Justice Rehnquist dissented. Rehnquist dissented because he felt that the law only needed to pass the “rational basis” analysis. (Previous cases in this 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."


Craig v. Boren Wikipedia

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