GOESAERT v. CLEARY
A Michigan statute required that all bartenders hold licenses in cities with populations greater than 50,000, but the statute also stated that a woman could not be issued a license unless she was "the wife or daughter of the male owner" of a liquor establishment. Two female bartenders challenged the law, requesting an injunction against its enforcement, on the ground that it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. A three- judge panel of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan rejected the bartenders' claim.
Did the Michigan statute, in denying female bartenders access to licenses, violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
No. In a 6-3 opinion authored by Justice Felix Frankfurter, the Court concluded that the Constitution "does not preclude the States from drawing a sharp line between the sexes" or "to reflect sociological insight, or shifting social standards, any more than it requires them to keep abreast of the latest scientific standards." The Court found that the Michigan legislature, in enacting the statute, could have determined that allowing women to bartend could "give rise to moral and social problems against which it may devise preventive measures." The Court, Justice Frankfurter concludes, is in no position to "cross-examine either actually or argumentatively the mind of Michigan legislators."