Craig v. Boren Case Brief

Why is the case important?

Oklahoma State maintained different drinking ages between men and women for the consumption of 3.2% alcohol beer. The Appellant, Craig (Appellant), now alleges that this difference violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution).

Facts of the case

“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.”


Does the Oklahoma statute violate the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution?


Yes. Appeals Court ruling reversed and remanded.
Justice William Brennan (J. Brennan) argues that case precedent dictates that an intermediate level of scrutiny should be applied in analyzing the statute. Specifically, the gender-based classification must serve an important government objective and be substantially related to the achievement of such objective.
The District Court unequivocally found that the objective to be served by the statute is increased traffic safety. J. Brennan is not persuaded by the Appellees’, Craig and others (Appellees), statistics that the statute closely serves the stated objective. As such, it is not constitutional.


The Court reversed, holding that the gender-based differential constituted a denial of the equal protection of the laws to males who were 18 to 20 years of age. The Court held that gender did not represent a legitimate, accurate proxy for the regulation of drinking and driving, and therefore, the classification was not substantially related to the achievement of a legitimate government objective. The court also noted that U.S. Const. amend. XXI did not save the gender-based discrimination from invalidation.

  • Case Brief: 1976
  • Appellant: Curtis Craig and Carolyn Whitener
  • Appellee: David Boren, Governor of Oklahoma
  • Decided by: Burger Court

Citation: 429 US 190 (1976)
Argued: Oct 5, 1976
Decided: Dec 20, 1976