For Schools

Grades 7-9
What Does It Mean to Have Equal Protection of the Laws?

Case Abstracts (for 14th Amendment/Situations Handout)

1. The case involving different drinking ages for males and females is Craig v. Boren 429 U.S. 190 (1976). Oklahoma defended the law by arguing that statistics showed males between the ages of 18-21 were more likely than females to drive while drunk. The young man who brought the case claimed that the law discriminated unconstitutionally. The U. S. Supreme Court used a new "intermediate level" of scrutiny called the "substantial relationship" test in deciding this case. A divided Court ruled against the state, on the ground that laws discriminating on the basis of gender must serve "important governmental objectives" and be "substantially related to" achieving these objectives. The Court found that the law violated the equal protection clause because the sex discrimination in the law was not substantially related to the law’s objective -- traffic safety.

2. The case about the pregnant girl and the Honor Society is based on Cazares v. Barber, 959 F2d 753 (CA 9, 1992). A student alleged that she was not selected for the NHS because she was pregnant, unmarried, and not living with the baby’s father. The Ninth Circuit upheld the district court’s order barring the NHS induction ceremony from taking place without the female student.

3. The example on sports programs for males and females is based on a number of cases brought under Title IX, a federal statute enacted in 1972 to deny federal funding to universities that discriminate based on sex in scholastic sports. Under court rulings, the number of men and women athletes must mirror the ratio of men to women in the student body. Universities opposed to this interpretation of the law have unsuccessfully argued that the lack of gender parity in their sports programs simply reflects the "fact" that males tend to be more sports-minded.


>>What Does It Mean to Have Equal Protection of the Laws?
>>Historical Perspective: What Was the Intent of the Framers of the 14th Amendment?
>>Handout: 14th Amendment/Situations
>>Handout: Case Abstracts


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