Roberts v. United States Jaycees

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468 U.S. 609 (1984), argued 18 Apr. 1984, decided 3 July 1984 by vote of 7 to 0; Brennan for the Court, Rehnquist and O’Connor concurring, Burger and Blackmun not participating. The Supreme Court held that the application of the Minnesota Human Rights Act to the Minnesota Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), requiring the Jaycees to admit women as members, did not violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments’ guarantee of freedom of association, and that the Human Rights Act was not void on account of vagueness.

For the Court, William J. Brennan recognized two types of associational freedom deserving constitutional protection: freedom of association related to marriage, procreation, contraception, and family and children, and freedom of association related to expressive activities. The Jaycees freedom of association, the Court held, fell outside the first category of associational freedom because of the large, unselective nature of the group. If there was any constitutional claim here, it was the freedom of association related to the expression of collective views and interests. That right of association was not absolute, however, the Court noted. It could be overridden by a compelling governmental interest and Minnesota's interest in prohibiting gender discrimination was such a compelling governmental interest and, as such, was sufficient to override the expressive associational interests of male Jaycee members.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor concurred, stating that associations could be rationally divided into expressive and nonexpressive associations. The Jaycees were essentially a nonexpressive, commercial association in relation to which greater governmental regulatory power had long been recognized, and the application of the Minnesota Human Rights Act to the Jaycees was thus justified because of the predominantly commercial, non-expressive nature of the group.

Richard C. Cortner

Subjects: Law.

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