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

  • Every year, Boston held a St. Patrick’s Day parade, organized by a private association (the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council).
    • Boston did allow use of their official seal for the parade, and provided funding.
  • A group of gay Irishmen (aka GLIB) wanted to march in the parade, but the Council denied them. They obtained a court order and marched. They next year, the Council again denied them, so they sued.
    • GLIB argued that Massachusetts law prohibited “discrimination or restriction on account of… sexual orientation… relative to the admission of any person to, or treatment in any place of public accommodation, resort or amusement.”
  • The Council (led by Hurley) countersued, claiming that they were a private organization and to be forced to allow GLIB to march was an unconstitutional infringement of their 1st Amendment right to free association.
  • The Trial Court found for GLIB. The Council appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that the Council could not forbid groups based on sexual orientation.
  • The Massachusetts Supreme Court affirmed. The Council appealed.
    • The Massachusetts Supreme Court found that the parade was a public event (even though it was run by a private group), and was generally viewpoint-neutral, so they couldn’t discriminate.
  • The US Supreme Court reversed.
    • The US Supreme Court found that in all cases, the 1st Amendment requires that groups be allowed to determine what message they convey to the public.
      • The Court found that when private citizens organize a public demonstration they may not be compelled by the state to include groups who impart a message the organizers do not want to be included in their demonstration.
        • Even if there is a law preventing discrimination.
  • Basically, this case says that a private group cannot be forced to endorse a message against its will.