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U.S. Supreme Court

Mississippi Univ. for Women v. Hogan, 458 U.S. 718 (1982)

Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan

No. 81-406

Argued March 22, 1982

Decided July 1, 1982

458 U.S. 718


Held: The policy of petitioner Mississippi University for Women (MUW), a state-supported university which has from its inception limited its enrollment to women, of denying otherwise qualified males (such as respondent) the right to enroll for credit in its School of Nursing violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 458 U. S. 723-733.

(a) The party seeking to uphold a statute that classifies individuals on the basis of their gender must carry the burden of showing an "exceedingly persuasive justification" for the classification. Kirchberg v. Feenstra, 450 U. S. 455, 450 U. S. 461; Personnel Administrator of Mass. v. Feeney, 442 U. S. 256, 442 U. S. 273. 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." Wengler v. Druggists Mutual Insurance Co., 446 U. S. 142, 446 U. S. 150. The test must be applied free of fixed notions concerning the roles and abilities of males and females. Pp. 458 U. S. 723-727.

(b) 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. Pp. 458 U. S. 727-731.

(c) Nor can the exclusion of men from MUW's School of Nursing be justified on the basis of the language of § 901(a)(5) of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which exempts from § 901(a)'s general prohibition

Page 458 U. S. 719

of gender discrimination in federally funded education programs the admissions policies of public institutions of undergraduate higher education "that traditionally and continually from [their] establishment [have] had a policy of admitting only students of one sex." It is not clear that, as argued by the State, Congress enacted the statute pursuant to its power granted by § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to enforce that Amendment, and thus placed a limitation upon the broad prohibitions of the Equal Protection Clause. Rather, Congress apparently intended, at most, to create an exemption from Title IX's requirements. In any event, Congress' power under § 5

"is limited to adopting measures to enforce the guarantees of the Amendment; § 5 grants Congress no power to restrict, abrogate, or dilute these guarantees."

Katzenbach v. Morgan, 384 U. S. 641, 384 U. S. 651, n. 10. Pp. 458 U. S. 731-733.

646 F.2d 1116 and 653 F.2d 222, affirmed.

O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J.,post p. 458 U. S. 733, and BLACKMUN, J., post, p. 458 U. S. 733, filed dissenting opinions. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 458 U. S. 735.

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