Rotary International v. Rotary Club of Duarte

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ROTARY INTERNATIONAL V. ROTARY CLUB OF DUARTE, 107 Supreme Court 1940 (1987), upheld the second of two state laws prohibiting sex discrimination in private associations. This decision involved a California statute similar to the Minnesota law upheld in Roberts et al. v. United States Jaycees (1984). Like Roberts, the case represented a conflict between a local chapter and its parent organization. Two Supreme Court justices had to recuse themselves from the case—Harry A. Blackmun because he was a member of the Rotary and Sandra Day O'Connor because her husband was a member. Rotary, it was clear, was not a private club. It described itself as "inclusive, not exclusive" and, like the Jaycees, worked to remove racial, religious, and cultural barriers—among males. The difference between Rotary and Roberts was that the Rotary has always been a less political and more selective group than the Jaycees. Rotary did not take positions on public issues, and local chapters determined their own admissions procedures (the international organization recommends selection committees).

In rejecting Rotary International's claim that the state law violated the constitutional right to privacy recognized in Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court emphasized "factors such as size, purpose, selectivity, and whether others are excluded from critical aspects of the relationship." A year later, the Court, in New York State Club Association v. New York, upheld an ordinance banning sex discrimination in even the most elite "city clubs." In the 1990s, the precedent of banning discrimination in large private associations on the grounds of gender was expanded to sexual orientation. Several state supreme court decisions in the 1990s ruled in favor of plaintiffs excluded from the Boy Scouts because they were gay.


Abernathy, M. Glenn. The Right of Assembly and Association. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1981.

Baer, Judith A. Women in American Law: The Struggle Toward Equality from the New Deal to the Present. New York: Holmes and Meier, 2002.

Judith A.Baer/a. r.

See alsoBoy Scouts of America ; Civil Rights Act of 1964 ; Clubs, Exclusionary ; First Amendment ; Fraternal and Service Organizations ; Gender and Gender Roles ; Women in Public Life, Business, and Professions .