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U.S. Supreme Court

Roberts v. United States Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609 (1984)

Roberts v. United States Jaycees

No. 83-724

Argued April 18, 1984

Decided July 3, 1984

468 U.S. 609


Appellee United States Jaycees is a nonprofit national membership corporation whose objective, as stated in its bylaws, is to pursue such educational and charitable purposes as will promote and foster the growth and development of young men's civic organizations. The bylaws establish several classes of membership, including individual regular and associate members and local chapters. Regular membership is limited to young men between the ages of 18 and 35, while associate membership is available to persons ineligible for regular membership, principally women and older men. An associate member may not vote or hold local or national office. Two local chapters in Minnesota have been violating the bylaws for several years by admitting women as regular members, and, as a result, have had a number of sanctions imposed on them by appellee, including denying their members eligibility for state or national office. When these chapters were notified by appellee that revocation of their charters was to be considered, members of both chapters filed discrimination charges with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, alleging that the exclusion of women from full membership violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act (Act), which makes it

"an unfair discriminatory practice . . . [t]o deny any person the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of a place of public accommodation because of race, color, creed, religion, disability, national origin or sex."

Before a hearing took place on the state charges, appellee brought suit against appellant state officials to prevent enforcement of the Act, alleging that, by requiring appellee to accept women as regular members, application of the Act would violate the male members' constitutional rights of free speech and association. Ultimately, a state hearing officer decided against appellee, and the District Court certified to the Minnesota Supreme Court the question whether appellee is "a place of public accommodation" within the meaning of the Act. That court answered the question in the affirmative, and, in the course of its holding, suggested that, unlike appellee, the Kiwanis Club might be sufficiently "private" to be outside the Act's scope. Appellee then amended its federal complaint to claim that the

Page 468 U. S. 610

Minnesota Supreme Court's interpretation of the Act rendered it unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. After trial, the District Court entered judgment in appellants' favor. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that application of the Act to appellee's membership policies would produce a "direct and substantial" interference with appellee's freedom of association guaranteed by the First Amendment. and, in the alternative, that the Act was vague as construed and applied, and hence unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.


1. Application of the Act to appellee to compel it to accept women as regular members does not abridge either the male members' freedom of intimate association or their freedom of expressive association. Pp. 468 U. S. 617-629.

(a) Several features of appellee's organization place it outside the category of highly personal relationships entitled to constitutional protection against unjustified interference by the State. Local chapters are neither small nor selective, no criteria being employed for judging applicants for membership. Moreover, many of the activities central to the formation and maintenance of the association of members with one another involve the participation of strangers to that relationship, numerous nonmembers of both genders regularly participating in a substantial portion of the activities. Accordingly, local chapters lack the distinctive characteristics that might afford constitutional protection to their members' decision to exclude women. Pp. 468 U. S. 618-622.

(b) Minnesota's compelling interest in eradicating discrimination against its female citizens, an interest unrelated to the suppression of expression, justifies the impact that application of the Act to appellee may have on its male members' freedom of expressive association. By prohibiting gender discrimination in places of public accommodation, the Act protects the State's citizenry from a number of serious social and personal harms. Assuring women equal access to the goods, privileges, and advantages of a place of public accommodation clearly furthers compelling state interests. In applying the Act to appellee, the State has advanced those interests through the least restrictive means of achieving its ends. There is no basis in the record for concluding that admission of women as full voting members will impede appellee's ability to engage in its constitutionally protected civic, charitable, lobbying, fundraising, and other activities, or to disseminate its preferred views. In any event, even if enforcement of the Act causes some incidental abridgment of appellee's protected speech, that effect is not greater than necessary to accomplish the State's legitimate purposes. Pp. 468 U. S. 622-629.

Page 468 U. S. 611

2. The Act is not unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. The due process concerns of the void-for-vagueness doctrine are not seriously implicated by the Act, either on its face or as construed in this case. The Minnesota Supreme Court's construction of the Act by use of objective criteria typically employed in determining the applicability of antidiscrimination statutes to the membership policies of assertedly private clubs ensures that the Act's reach is readily ascertainable. The contrast that court drew between appellee and the Kiwanis Club also disposes of appellee's contention that the Act is unconstitutionally overbroad. That court's articulated willingness to adopt limiting constructions that would exclude private groups from the Act's reach, together with the commonly used and sufficiently precise standards it employed to determine that appellee is not such a group, establishes that the Act, as construed, does not create an unacceptable risk of application to a substantial amount of protected conduct. Pp. 629-631.

709 F.2d 1560, reversed.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, MARSHALL, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, and in Parts I and III of which O'CONNOR, J., joined. O'CONNOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, post, p. 468 U. S. 631. REHNQUIST, J., concurred in the judgment. BURGER, C.J.,and BLACKMUN, J., took no part in the decision of the case.

Page 468 U. S. 612

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