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

Annotate this Case
  • Syllabus  | 
  • Case

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.

Primary Holding

Discrimination against men requires an equally high level of scrutiny under equal protection as discrimination against women.


The Mississippi legislature founded the Mississippi University for Women, which did not allow any men to enroll. Hogan applied for entrance to the nursing school associated with the University and was rejected because he was male. The University allowed him to audit courses but told him that he could not take courses for credit. Hogan argued that this policy violated the Equal Protection Clause but was unsuccessful in the lower court under a rational basis standard of review. The Fifth Circuit ruled that the lower court should have used intermediate scrutiny rather than rational basis as its standard of review, since the case involved gender discrimination.



  • Sandra Day O'Connor (Author)
  • William Joseph Brennan, Jr.
  • Byron Raymond White
  • Thurgood Marshall
  • John Paul Stevens

A gender-based classification in a law must be substantially related to an important government objective. This standard is an intermediate level of scrutiny between rational basis review and the strict scrutiny used in cases of racial discrimination or fundamental rights. The University argued that its policy was designed as a remedy for past discrimination against women, but over 90 percent of the nursing profession consists of women. The University is also unpersuasive in suggesting that having men at the school would adversely affect the women there, since it allows men to be present by auditing the classes.


  • Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr. (Author)
  • William Hubbs Rehnquist

Broadly speaking, there is no gender discrimination because both men and women in Mississippi have a choice of universities that they can attend. The Fourteenth Amendment should not be applied so strictly on the level of a single college, which is merely one of many choices. In fact, the decision removes one type of choice, an all-female college, from the options available to women.


  • Warren Earl Burger (Author)


  • Harry Andrew Blackmun (Author)

Case Commentary

A state cannot justify a policy that discriminates based on gender if the interest used to support it does not bear a reasonable relationship to its objective. The Court also struck down a New York law that allowed an unwed mother but not an unwed father to prevent the adoption of their child by withholding consent.

Disclaimer: Justia Annotations is a forum for attorneys to summarize, comment on, and analyze case law published on our site. Justia makes no guarantees or warranties that the annotations are accurate or reflect the current state of law, and no annotation is intended to be, nor should it be construed as, legal advice. Contacting Justia or any attorney through this site, via web form, email, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.