The Supreme Court upheld state laws saying men could commit statutory rape but women could not.
California law held men culpable for statutory rape but not women, even if both parties were within a narrow underage range, arguing that such a law acted more as a deterrent to pregnancy than a gender-neutral law would because the young woman was needed as a witness to the crime. A Supreme Court plurality of four accepted this view, upheld the statute, and sustained the conviction of “Michael M.” The Court was anything but unified on the case. Justice Harry A. Blackmun concurred in the result but did not join in the opinion, thereby creating a 5-4 vote but only a four-member plurality opinion. Based on his quotation of lengthy extracts from the trial Blackmun appeared to feel that the case was a hard-to-prove forcible rape case. Potter Stewart wrote a separate concurrence. Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., dissented and was joined by Byron R. White and Thurgood Marshall. They argued that California had not proved its law was a greater deterrent to pregnancy than a more gender-balanced law would have been. Justice John Paul Stevens dissented separately, arguing that a law that punished one of two parties to a consensual act was illogical, and this problem could perhaps be avoided if the law punished the aggressor or more willing party.
Due process, procedural
Equal protection clause