Supreme Court Standards for Gender Discrimination

The Supreme Court has dealt with a variety of gender discrimination cases over the years. Until 1976, it used a rational basis test to determine whether the discrimination it was reviewing was constitutional. Since 1976, beginning with the case of Craig v. Boren, the court has used what is referred to as “intermediate” scrutiny in regard to gender discrimination cases. This standard states that a classification based on gender must be reasonable, not arbitrary, and must serve important governmental objectives and be substantially related to the achievement of those objectives.

This scrutiny is less of standard than the court uses in racial discrimination cases, which are subject to strict scrutiny. A classification based on race must serve a compelling government interest and be strictly tailored to the achievement of the purpose. This standard makes courts more willing to uphold a classification based on sex than to uphold one based on racial classification.


Inside Supreme Court Standards for Gender Discrimination