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U.S. Supreme Court

New York Club Ass'n v. City of New York, 487 U.S. 1 (1988)

New York State Club Association Inc. v. City of New York

No. 86-1836

Argued February 23, 1988

Decided June 20, 1988

487 U.S. 1


New York City's Human Rights Law forbids discrimination based on race, creed, sex, and other grounds by any "place of public accommodation, resort or amusement," but specifically exempts "any institution, club or place of accommodation which is in its nature distinctly private." However, a 1984 amendment (Local Law 63) provides that any "institution, club or place of accommodation," other than a benevolent order or a religious corporation, "shall not be considered in its nature distinctly private" if it

"has more than four hundred members, provides regular meal service and regularly receives payment . . . directly or indirectly from or on behalf of nonmembers for the furtherance of trade or business."

Immediately after Local Law 63 became effective, appellant association filed a state court suit against the city and some of its officials, seeking, inter alia, a declaration that the Law is unconstitutional on its face under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The trial court entered a judgment upholding the Law, and the intermediate state appellate court and the Court of Appeals of New York affirmed.


1. Appellant, a nonprofit association consisting of a consortium of 125 other private New York clubs and associations, has standing to challenge Local Law 63's constitutionality in this Court on behalf of its members, since those members "would otherwise have standing to sue in their own right," under Hunt v. Washington Apple Advertising Comm'n, 432 U. S. 333, 432 U. S. 343. Appellees' contention that appellant's member associations chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 487 U. S. 2

must have standing to sue only on behalf of themselves, and not on behalf of their own members, misreads Hunt, which simply requires that members have standing to bring the same suit. Here, appellant's member associations would have standing to bring this same challenge to Local Law 63 on behalf of their own individual members, since those individuals "are suffering immediate or threatened injury" to their associational rights as a result of the Law's enactment. Warth v. Seldin, 422 U. S. 490, 422 U. S. 511. Pp. 481 U. S. 8-10.

2. Appellant's facial First Amendment attack cannot prevail. That attack must fail insofar as it is based on the claim that Local Law 63 is invalid in all of its applications. As appellant concedes, the Human Rights Law's antidiscrimination provisions may be constitutionally applied to at least some of the large covered clubs under Roberts v. United States Jaycees, 468 U. S. 609, and Board of Directors of Rotary Int'l v. Rotary Club, 481 U. S. 537. In finding that clubs comparable in size to, or smaller than, clubs covered by the Human Rights Law were not protected private associations, Roberts and Rotary emphasized the regular participation of strangers at club meetings, a factor that is no more significant to defining a club's nonprivate nature than are Local Law 63's requirements that covered clubs provide "regular meal service" and receive regular nonmember payments "for the furtherance of trade or business." Similarly, Local Law 63 cannot be said to infringe upon every club member's right of expressive association, since, in the absence of specific evidence on the characteristics of any covered club, it must be assumed that many of the large clubs would be able to effectively advance their desired viewpoints without confining their membership to persons having, for example, the same sex or religion. Nor has appellant proved its claim that the Law is overbroad in that it applies to "distinctively private" clubs, since there is no evidence of any club, let alone a substantial number of clubs, for whom the Law impairs the ability to associate or to advocate public or private viewpoints. Thus, it must be assumed that the administrative and judicial opportunities available for individual associations to contest the Law's constitutionality as it may be applied against them are adequate to assure that any overbreadth will be curable through case-by-case analysis of specific facts. Pp. 481 U. S. 10-15.

3. Appellant's facial equal protection attack on Local Law 63's exemption deeming benevolent orders and religious corporations to be "distinctly private" must also fail. The City Council could have reasonably believed that the exempted organizations are different in kind from appellant's members, in the crucial respect of whether business activity (and therefore business opportunities for minorities and women) is prevalent among them. Cf. Bryant v. Zimmerman, 278 U. S. 63. More chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 487 U. S. 3

over, New York law indicates that benevolent orders and religious corporations are unique, and thus that a rational basis exists for their exemption here. Appellant has failed to carry its considerable burden of showing that this view is erroneous and that the issue is not truly debatable, since there is no evidence that a detailed examination of the practices, purposes, and structures of the exempted organizations would show them to be identical to the private clubs covered by the Law in the critical respect of whether business activity is prevalent among them. Pp. 481 U. S. 15-18.

69 N.Y.2d 211, 505 N.E.2d 915, affirmed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court with respect to Parts I, II, and III, and an opinion of the Court with respect to Part IV, in which REHNQUIST, C.J.,and BRENNAN, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, STEVENS, O'CONNOR, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. O'CONNOR, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which KENNEDY, J., joined, post, p. 481 U. S. 18. SCALIA, J., filed an opinigitafter'>481 U. S. 18. SCALIA, J., filed an opinigitafter'>481 U. S. 18. SCALIA, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, post, p. 481 U. S. 20. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 487 U. S. 4

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