Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, And Bisexual Group of Boston 515 U.S. 557 (1995)

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The City of Boston authorized the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council to organize the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade. The Council refused a place in the parade to the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston (GLIB), an organization formed for the purpose of expressing its members' pride in their Irish heritage as openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals. GLIB filed suit claiming that this refusal violated a Massachusetts law prohibiting discrimination on account of sexual orientation in places of public accommodation. The state courts sustained this claim, but the Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion by Justice david h. souter, held that the application of the statute in this context violated the first amendment rights of the council.

The Court explained that, because "every participating unit affects the message conveyed by the private organizers," the application of the statute in this situation effectively required the council "to alter the expressive content" of its parade. The Court declared that "this use of the State's power" violates "the fundamental rule" that "a speaker has the autonomy to choose the content of his own message." Thus, if the council "objects," for example, to GLIB's implicit assertion that homosexuals and bisexuals are entitled to full and equal "social acceptance," it has a right "not to propound" this message.

The Court distinguished pruneyard shopping center v. robins (1980), in which the Court had held that a state could constitutionally require the owner of a private shopping center to permit individuals to circulate petitions on the grounds of the shopping center. The Court explained that, unlike the council, the owner of a shopping center (1) is "running 'a business establishment that is open to the public,' " and (2) could more easily " 'expressly disavow any connection with the message by simply posting signs in the areas where the speakers or handbillers stand.' "

Geoffrey R. Stone

(see also: Compelled Speech; Freedom of Speech; Freedom of Assembly and Association.)

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Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, And Bisexual Group of Boston 515 U.S. 557 (1995)

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