Category Archives: association

New York State Club Assn., Inc. v. City of New York

487 U. S. 1

June 20, 1988

A statute with the Orwellian sounding name “Human Rights Law” banned certain private clubs from discriminating in membership based on race or sex. The law was limited in several respects, leaving alone clubs with less than 400 members, and clubs that were religious or benevolent in character – this based on the state’s finding that business activity was not prevalent at those organizations. A large club mounted a facial challenge to the law, based on both the First Amendment right to freedom of association, and the Equal Protection clause, given the aforementioned exemptions from the law’s reach.

The Supreme Court unanimously rejected these facial challenges. White first brushed aside one of those asinine jurisdiction challenges, because Court precedent did allow private associations to mount facial challenges. Nonetheless, in light of prior rulings in Rotary Club and Roberts v. Jaycees, White said there was little chance the New York law was invalid on its face because of the association concerns. Indeed, it seemed carefully drawn to leave most freedom of association rights intact, and could not be described as overbroad. With respect to the Equal Protection challenge, White said that New York had proffered rational reasons for exempting religious and benevolent organizations, and that no hard evidence had been offered to rebut the state’s reasoning.

O’Connor, joined by Kennedy, concurred to say that there could be an odd case where the law did violate a club’s association rights, and that the law was still vulnerable to an as-applied challenge. Scalia did not join the Equal Protection section, but concurred in judgment. He did not take the state’s reasoning at face value, but looked at the clubs classified as religious and benevolent for himself before concluding that the distinction drawn by the law was a defensible one (in case your wondering, ‘benevolent’ organization are mostly lodges like the Masons, VFW, or Knights of Columbus).

I have already given my opinion about laws like this in my Rotary Club write up, and I will not repeat it here. If you follow the principle of stare decisis, then this case was correctly decided. But I would have overruled Rotary Club, because that decision was awful, and doesn’t deserve precedential respect.

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Lyng v. Automobile Workers

485 U. S. 360

March 23, 1988

The famous 1981 omnibus budget denied strikers the privilege of receiving food stamps. Predictably, unions were outraged, and tried to get this declared unconstitutional. They argued that it violated the associative and expressive rights of strikers, along with the Equal Protection clause.

The Supreme Court smacked down the unions 5-3 (Kennedy did not participate). White pointed out that food stamps were a privilege, and that the government is not required to fund every exercise of associative or expressive rights. Furthermore, it was pretty unlikely that anyone would decide against joining a union or living in a household just because of the food stamp issue. The government had not done any affirmative harm against unions or strikers – it had merely withdrawn a financial privilege. Finally, White said there was plenty rational basis for singling out strikers. In particular, it made the government more neutral in labor disputes, because strikers could hold out much longer if they were getting tax subsidized food stamps indefinitely.

Marshall, joined by Brennan and Blakmun, threw a babyish temper tantrum and called it a ‘dissent.’ He could not find a single rational basis for the law. Saving federal money was not good enough, because you could save federal money by discriminating against a protected class. Wanting to allocate money to those actually out of work was not good enough either, because those who strike are still in need of food. Finally, neutrality in labor disputes was not good enough, because company officials who oppose strikers could still get food stamps during a strike. Then, Marshall argued the law was simply a measure geared toward discouraging and ending strikes, and punishing those who chose to strike. You might think that this would constitute a pretty solid rational basis for the law, but in Marshall’s eyes, such an “animus” toward strikers was hateful and bigoted, and thus irrational.

Marshall is dead wrong. Strikes are evil, and emphatically do deserve to be squelched. And those who strike emphatically do deserve to suffer consequences for it. The last thing strikers deserve is having their evil rewarded by government money. Here’s a few Bible verses on the subject:

1 Peter 2:18: Submit with all fear to your masters, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel.

2 Thessalonians 3:10: This is what we commanded you: “If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat.”

1 Timothy 5:8: But if anyone does not provide for his own, that is his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

There you have it. Once again, Brennan, Marshall, and Blackmun are those who “call evil good and good evil.” Sadly, it won’t be the last time.

Board of Directors of Rotary Int’l v. Rotary Club of Duarte

481 U. S. 537

May 4, 1987

The Rotary Club had a strict male only policy, but one chapter in California began admitting women, arguing that they were required to by a state anti-discrimination law. The Rotary Club attempted to revoke that chapter’s membership, leading to a lawsuit in which the California courts held that the Club had to allow chapters to admit women within the state. The Rotary Club argued that this burdened its freedom of association.

Unanimously, the Court ruled that California’s anti-discrimination law could be employed against the Rotary Club. Blackmun and O’Connor did not participate, and Scalia concurred in judgment without opinion. Powell wrote for the Court, and said that Rotary Clubs were especially public and especially diverse organizations. Furthermore, he argued that none of the Rotary Club’s principal stated goals would be compromised by the admission of women. This, coupled with a state’s compelling interest in ending sex discrimination meant that the Club’s freedom of association was not unreasonably burdened.

This decision was horrible on every level. The government has no business attempting to regulate the membership of private clubs. Even worse is the government deciding for itself whether a club’s purposes and goals really require excluding a certain group. But most troubling of all is the Court’s stark denial of what everyone really knows: a certain undefinable, but very real atmosphere is irrevocably lost whenever a single gender organization is forced to open up to the opposite gender. Sororities and fraternities, for example, wouldn’t be the same if they were gender integrated, and nearly the whole world can understand this instinctively. Whether the Court admitted it or not, this decision did forever destroy the Rotary zeitgeist.

This ruling is yet another example of the Supreme Court’s rebellion against God’s design of gender. God intended for men and women to be different; gender distinctions are a gift, not a curse. America will be much better off when it stops trying to use its laws to deny and suppress the blatantly obvious.