In Oklahoma, beer described as nonintoxicating because of its very low level of alcohol content was outlawed only if sold to men under the age of 21. However, the sale was outlawed to women under the age of 18. Plaintiff sued, claiming that the law discriminated on the basis of gender and therefore violated his equal protection rights under the 14th amendment.
Whether a law that bans the sale of low level intoxicating alcohol to men under 21 and women under the age of 18 violates the equal protection clause of the constitution.
Yes, the law is unconstitutional. This case introduced the standard of “intermediate scrutiny” under the equal protection clause, which primarily applies to statutes and policies that discriminate on the basis of gender. Under this standard it is the burden of the state to show an important (not compelling) government objective. The government must also show that the law is substantially related (not very narrowly tailored) to those stated objectives.
The state claimed to be relying on statistical evidence that the law had properly placed age limitation differentiation between men and women. The state attempted to show that the law’s purpose was to enhance traffic safety; but the statistics presented did not sufficiently demonstrate to the court that such discrimination would result in enhanced traffic safety.