City of Dallas v. Stanglin

PETITIONER: City of Dallas, et al.
RESPONDENT: Charles M. Stanglin
LOCATION: Dallas City Hall

DOCKET NO.: 87-1848
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 490 US 19 (1989)
ARGUED: Mar 01, 1989
DECIDED: Apr 03, 1989

Craig Lee Hopkins - on behalf of the Petitioners
Daniel J. Sheehan, Jr. - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

The city of Dallas, Texas passed an ordinance regulating the ages of admitted patrons and the hours of operation for dance halls. Charles M. Stanglin, the owner of the Twilight Skating Rink in Dallas, in compliance with this ordinance, split his skate rink into two sections: one section for patrons ages 14-18 and the other for anyone who pays the cost of admission. Stanglin sued the city to be able to un-divide the Twilight Skating Rink and argued that the ordinance placing age restrictions on dance halls violated the First Amendment right to freedom of association and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The district court held that the ordinance did not violate the First or Fourteenth Amendments and that the ordinance's purpose was to benefit the welfare of teenagers in Dallas by limiting their exposure to illicit activities. The Court of Appeals of Texas affirmed in part and reversed in part by holding that the ordinance did not violate the Equal Protections Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment but that the ordinance unconstitutionally infringed on the First Amendment right to freedom of association.


(1) Do age restrictions on social gathering violate the First Amendment right to freedom of association?

(2) Do age restrictions on social gathering violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution?

Media for City of Dallas v. Stanglin

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 01, 1989 in City of Dallas v. Stanglin

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in No. 87-1848, the City of Dallas v. Charles M. Stanglin.

Mr. Hopkins?

Craig Lee Hopkins:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

Does the City infringe a minor's right of association by allowing dance halls to operate in the City of Dallas and admit those ages 14 to 18 only?

I will address that there is no constitutionally protected right of association in a dance hall; that it would be unwise to expand constitutional protection to include such a right; and that even assuming there is some right implicated by the ordinance that is challenged, the City does not infringe that right by the ordinance challenged.

And in any case, the City has a rational and even compelling interest in regulating dance halls for the protection of minors.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, now, do you say that the First Amendment doesn't protect any right of social association?

Craig Lee Hopkins:


Sandra Day O'Connor:


Craig Lee Hopkins:

We place reliance on the Roberts precedent not only because it is the most recent analysis of associational freedoms, but also because it is reasonable.

This Court in that precedent without dissent tied associational freedom to the Bill of Rights and found protection first for intimate relations central to the concept of personal liberty.

The... all of us as American citizens enjoy a high degree of personal liberty, but we do not enjoy the personal autonomy alleged by Respondents in this case.

We do not enjoy the autonomy in all things that may serve us as recreation.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, do you think the City could adopt an ordinance telling all 14-year olds that they may not under any circumstances in their lives have any association with people over 18?

Craig Lee Hopkins:

No, I think that would be going much too far.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Then there is a right of social association.

Craig Lee Hopkins:

No, there's not a constitutionally protected right of association.

Of course, minors as... as all of us, have personal liberty, but there is nothing in the Constitution which would guarantee purely recreational association.

I think for a city to make such a blanket prohibition would be similar perhaps to the D.C. City... City Council submitting to the mayor the curfew ordinance.

I think that may not be a constitutional infringement, but I think... as far as social association, but I think it raises equal protection problems and... and other sorts of constitutional--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

You don't think equal protection is a constitutional principle?

Craig Lee Hopkins:

--It is a constitutional principle.

What I mean to say is that ordinance would probably not infringe the alleged constitutional protection of social association.

But it would implicate other constitutional protections.

And for that reason, I think that your hypothetical and perhaps others would be going too far.

Dance halls do not exhibit the characteristics of intimate associations that this Court has protected in the past.

They are primarily large gatherings.

Mr. Stanglin's testimony in the district court was that it was not unusual for there to be 800 to 1,000 persons in his establishment.

They are not selective in who they admit to the dance hall, and I think it's reasonable to think that of 800 or 1,000 teenagers, a large percentage are going to be strangers to each other.

And I think it is not reasonable to compare such a setting or such an atmosphere with, for example, the marital bedroom.