Is the women-only lounge in Michigan State's newly renovated student union constitutional? Eugene Volokh at Volokh Conspiracy thinks not:
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.)
Might the rational basis be that males commit crimes at a much higher rate than females? From the State News story on the new lounge:
Environmental geosciences senior Aiman Shahpuiwala said safety is one of the major reasons she goes there. “I feel like I can take a nap in there and I don’t have to worry about my stuff getting stolen,” Shahpuiwala said. “I think it’s pretty safe.”
The State News story is full of food for thought, including: "Lowrie said she has yet to hear of male needs that could be satisfied by a lounge."