421 U.S. 7 (1975), argued 19 Feb. 1975, decided 15 Apr. 1975 by vote of 8 to 1; Blackmun for the Court, Rehnquist in dissent. Stanton was one of several sex discrimination cases decided in the period between Reed v. Reed (1971) and Craig v. Boren (1976) in which the Court majority purported to be applying a rational basis test but declared void a statute that legislators and other judges had nonetheless found rational. The statute here declared unconstitutional, as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, had mandated a twenty-one-year age of majority for males and an eighteen-year age of majority for females.
Thelma Stanton, ex-wife of James Stanton, had brought suit when he ceased child support payments for their daughter Sherri upon the latter's eighteenth birthday. The Supreme Court of Utah had rejected her claim on the grounds that the statute had a reasonable basis: girls tend to mature physically, mentally, and emotionally before boys, and also, since men must provide for their families, they need time to acquire an education for that responsibility.
Justice Harry Blackmun, for the Court, denied that the statute was rational. He insisted that coeducation is a fact and that women are increasingly present in business and the professions. He said that the court failed to perceive the “unquestioned truth” of females’ tendency to earlier maturity or its relevance to the need for child support (p. 15).
Justice William Rehnquist's dissent argued that Thelma Stanton's claim arose out of a voluntary property settlement at divorce, which could have specified any age whatever to terminate support payments, and therefore the issue of the constitutionality of the age of majority law was not properly before the Court.
Leslie Friedman Goldstein