Facts of the Case

Provided by Oyez

An Oklahoma law prohibited the sale of "nonintoxicating" 3.2 percent beer to males under the age of 21 and to females under the age of 18. Curtis Craig, a male then between the ages of 18 and 21, and Carolyn Whitener, a licensed vendor challenged the law as discriminatory.


  1. Did an Oklahoma statute violate the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause by establishing different drinking ages for men and women?


  1. William J. Brennan, Jr. Brennan Thurgood Marshall Marshall Byron R. White White Lewis F. Powell, Jr. Powell Harry A. Blackmun Blackmun Potter Stewart Stewart John Paul Stevens Stevens Warren E. Burger Burger William H. Rehnquist Rehnquist Yes. In a 7-to-2 decision, the Court held that the statute made unconstitutional gender classifications. The Court held that the statistics relied on by the state of Oklahoma were insufficient to show a substantial relationship between the law and the maintenance of traffic safety. Generalities about the drinking habits of aggregate groups did not suffice. The Court also found that the Twenty-first Amendment did not alter the application of the Equal Protection Clause in the case. In striking down the Oklahoma law, the Court established a new standard for review in gender discrimination cases. More demanding than the lowest standard for review -- rational basis -- but less demanding than the highest standard -- strict scrutiny, the majority articulated an in-between standard -- intermediate scrutiny.