By Merrill Miller, Communications Intern
On June 28, the United States Supreme Court ruled that state funding of bigoted organizations was unconstitutional. In the case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the Christian Legal Society’s (CLS) chapter at Hastings College of Law, part of the public University of California, sued the college for denying them Registered Student Organization (RSO) status. The reason why Hastings wouldn’t grant the Christian Legal Society RSO status? Because their group required all members to sign a statement of faith that disregarded non-Christian students and students who were openly part of the LGBT community. This CLS policy was in direct defiance of Hastings’ anti-discrimination policy, which states that all groups sponsored by the college cannot exclude students from membership based on race, sex, religion or sexual orientation.
Though Hastings would not recognize CLS as an RSO, it did give the group permission to use the college facilities, such as empty classrooms and chalkboards and campus bulletin boards to advertise events. However, Hastings would not grant full benefits, such as funding, to CLS, so the group sued the college on the basis that their First Amendment rights–their freedom of religion and freedom of speech–were being violated. They also claimed that Hastings’ anti-discrimination policy disenfranchised student groups, such as religious groups, whose ideological persuasions were not in line with the mainstream opinions of the school. In other words, they claimed that they were being discriminated against because they were not permitted to discriminate as a publicly-funded school group.
Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 majority that CLS’s rights were not being infringed upon and that it would be unconstitutional for a state-funded college to support a group that discriminates against certain students. In Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s written Opinion of the Court, she stated that “Hastings, caught in the crossfire between a group’s desire to exclude and students’ demand for equal access, may reasonably draw a line in the sand permitting all organizations to express what they wish but no group to discriminate in membership.” While CLS may express whatever prejudiced opinions they hold against students in the LGBT community, that does not mean that a state-funded college must support those prejudices.
Soon-to-be-retired Justice John Paul Stevens also wrote a concurring opinion, in which he summed up the case by comparing CLS’s discrimination of non-Christians and LGBT students to other forms of discrimination: “Other groups may exclude or mistreat Jews, blacks, and women—or those who do not share their contempt for Jews, blacks, and women…[society] need not subsidize them, give them its official imprimatur, or grant them equal access to law school facilities.”
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling shows that discrimination against any group is intolerable and should not be supported by the state. It also sets a standard for inclusion and equality for all students in public universities, colleges, and schools around the country. Today, let’s celebrate the U.S. taking another step toward equality for those in the LGBT community.