Misssissippi University for Women v. Hogan,  No. 81-406 Supreme Court of The United States 458 U.S. 718; 102 S. Ct. 3331; 

March 22, 1982, Argued

July 1, 1982, Decided

CORE TERMS: nursing, classification, male, single-sex, sex, female, Fourteenth Amendment, educational, gender, coeducational, attend, discriminatory, state-supported, compensatory, baccalaureate, woman, undergraduate, discriminates, exempt, nurse, exceedingly, invalidating, audit, training, benefited, persuasive, compensate, spouse, stereotyped, enroll


This case presents the narrow issue of whether a state statute that excludes males from enrolling in a state-supported professional nursing school violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The burden is met only by showing at least that the classification serves "important governmental objectives and that the discriminatory means employed" are "substantially related to the achievement of those objectives."

The single-sex admissions policy of MUW's School of Nursing cannot be justified on the asserted ground that it compensates for discrimination against women and, therefore, constitutes educational affirmative action. A State can evoke a compensatory purpose to justify an otherwise discriminatory classification only if members of the gender benefited by the classification actually suffer a disadvantage related to the classification. Rather than compensating for discriminatory barriers faced by women, MUW's policy tends to perpetuate the stereotyped view of nursing as an exclusively woman's job. Moreover, the State has not shown that the gender-based classification is substantially and directly related to its proposed compensatory objective. To the contrary, MUW's policy of permitting men to attend classes as auditors fatally undermines its claim that women, at least those in the School of Nursing, are adversely affected by the presence of men. Thus, the State has fallen far short of establishing the "exceedingly persuasive justification" needed to sustain the gender-based classification.

Gender-based classification favoring one sex can be justified under the equal protection clause in limited cases. For example, if it intentionally and directly assists members of the sex that is disproportionately burdened. However, the member of the disadvantaged group which benefit from the classification must have actually suffered a disadvantage related to the classification.

The power of Congress is limited under section 5 to adopting measures to enforce the guarantees of the Amendment and 5 grants Congress no power to restrict, abrogate, or dilute these guarantees

JUDGES: O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BURGER, C. J., post, p. 733, and BLACKMUN, J., post, p. 733, filed dissenting opinions. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 735.

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