• Last updated on November 11, 2022

Jaycees was a landmark Supreme Court decision that held that the state’s interest in combating sex discrimination was sufficiently compelling to justify application of an antidiscrimination statute to some private organizations.

The Minnesota Human Rights Act prohibited sex discrimination in a place of public accommodation. The state’s enforcement agency applied the statute to the Jaycees, a private service club that restricted membership to men. The Jaycees brought a lawsuit, claiming that requiring the organization to accept women as members violated its right of free association guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments.Discrimination, sex;Roberts v. United States Jaycees[Roberts v. United States Jaycees]Assembly and association, freedom of;Roberts v. United States Jaycees[Roberts v. United States Jaycees]

By a 7-0 vote, the Supreme Court rejected the claim. Writing for a majority, Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.,Brennan, William J., Jr.;Roberts v. United States Jaycees[Roberts v. United States Jaycees] recognized constitutional protection for two varieties of freedom of association: the right to choose “intimate human relationships” and the right to engage in expressive activities. Brennan noted that the Jaycees was “neither small nor selective,” and that the presence of women in the organization would require no change in its announced creed. Such a small limit on the free association rights of the Jaycees was justified by the state’s interest in eradicating discrimination. In a more narrow concurrence, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor argued that the Jaycees operated more like a commercial organization than a private club.

Subsequent to the Jaycees decision, the Court ruled that public accommodation laws apply to many other private organizations. In New York State Club Association v. City of New York[case]New York State Club Association v. City of New York[New York State Club Association v. City of New York] (1988), for instance, the Court held that certain all-male social clubs must admit women. However, in the case of Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston[case]Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston[Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston] (1995), the Court held that the principle of free association permitted a private group to exclude a gay rights group from participating in its annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Assembly and association, freedom of

Gender issues

Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston

New York State Club Association v. City of New York

Privacy, right to

Private discrimination

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