Personnel Administrator of Massachusetts v. Feeney
442 U.S. 256 (1979)
Massachusetts had a law that
said that veterans get preferential treatment when applying for State
government jobs or promotions.
Feeney worked for the State
government. She was repeatedly passed over for promotions because she was
not a veteran.
Feeney sued, arguing that the
State Statute was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment
because it favored men over women.
Many more men joined the
military than women.
Remember, at that time, men
were still getting drafted, women were not.
The Trial Court found for
Feeney. Massachusetts appealed.
The Trial Court found that
the Statute had not been enacted for the purpose of gender
discrimination, but that its effects were so severe that the law violated
The US Supreme Court found the
Massachusetts Statute to be constitutional and not a violation of the Equal
The US Supreme Court found
that even if there was a discriminatory effect to Jackson's actions, in order to be a
violation of the Equal Protection Clause, a facially-neutral law must also be shown to have a discriminatory
argued that there should be a presumption that natural and foreseeable
consequences of voluntary actions should prove discriminatory purpose.
Although the Court
acknowledged that lawmakers were certainly aware of the consequences of
their actions, that doesn't rise to the level of intent.
"'Discriminatory purpose' implies more than an intent as volition or
intent as awareness of consequences. It implies that the decisionmaker
selected and reaffirmed a particular cause of action at least in part
'because of', not merely 'in spite of' its adverse effects upon an
The Court's reasoning in this
case is almost the opposite of criminal common law, where it is assumed
that someone is acting with intent if they are acting with either purpose or knowledge that their acts will have a certain