Can a State University Have a Women-Only Student Lounge?

Michigan State University apparently has a women-only student lounge — a room for studying, not a restroom or a locker room. A reader asked whether this is permissible; the answer is pretty clearly no, given the Court’s modern Equal Protection Clause jurisprudence.

Sex classifications are impermissible under the Court’s precedents unless they are backed by an “exceedingly persuasive justification“; it’s hard to see such a justification for a women-only lounge, especially (but not only) if no men-only lounge is available. And that the discrimination is as to something quite minor — access to a room, and not to the university as a whole or an educational program within the university — doesn’t matter when it comes to the Equal Protection Clause. (It’s also possible that the existence of the lounge violates federal statutes and state statutes or state constitutional provisions, but I set that aside for purposes of this post.)

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