Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc.

RESPONDENT:Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc.
LOCATION:South Boston Allied War Veterans Council

DOCKET NO.: 94-749
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

CITATION: 515 US 557 (1995)
ARGUED: Apr 25, 1995
DECIDED: Jun 19, 1995

Chester Darling – Argued the cause for the petitioners
John Ward – Argued the cause for the respondents

Facts of the case

In 1993, the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council was authorized by the city of Boston to organize the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The Council refused a place in the event for the Irish American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston (GLIB). The group attempted to join to express its members’ pride in their Irish heritage as openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals. The Massachusetts State Court ordered the Veterans’ Council to include GLIB under a state law prohibiting discrimination on account of sexual orientation in public accommodations. The Veterans’ Council claimed that forced inclusion of GLIB members in their privately-organized parade violated their free speech.


Did a Massachusetts State Court’s mandate to Boston’s Veterans’ Council, requiring it to include GLIB members in its parade, violate the Council’s free speech rights as protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments?

Media for Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – April 25, 1995 in Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 19, 1995 in Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court number 94-749, Hurley versus Irish American Gay Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston will be announced by Justice Souter.

David H. Souter:

This case comes to us on writ of certiorari of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

The petitioner has customarily organized the St. Patrick’s Evacuation Day Parade in Boston from which they excluded the respondent GLIB, a group of gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals of Irish descent who wanted to march in the parade as a unity under its own banner.

GLIB sued in State Court under the commonwealth’s public accommodations law and one in order requiring petitioners to include GLIB in the parade.

The trial court found that the parade was a place of public accommodation within the meaning of that law and held it because petitioners did not impose an exact message or theme on the parade.

His activity was not expressive and that therefore ordering the inclusion of GLIB did not violate petitioners’ rights under the First Amendment, the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed.

In an opinion filed today with the clerk of the court we reverse.

We reviewed the facts without deference to the trial court as we must in First Amendment cases, and find that the parade with its banners, flags, costumes and music is expressive much as a protest march is even though the private sponsors have been rather lenient in their admission of expressive units.

It is also readily apparent that GLIB’s participation in the parade is expressive.

Thus, although the public accommodations law is on it’s pace unremarkable and poses little threat to private speech interest.

Its peculiar application here essentially declared petitioner speech itself to be the public accommodation to which all beneficiaries of the law should have access.

This uses the State’s power however violates the fundamental First Amendment rule that a private speaker has the autonomy to choose what to say and what to leave unsaid.

GLIB has offered nothing that would support such an intrusion here.

Unlike Turner Broadcasting in FCC in which we reviewed cable access regulations allegedly addressing cable operators’ monopoly of access to their subscribers.

No comfortable contention has been advanced here that petitioners are able to silence the voices of competing speakers, nor of course can the Massachusetts’ mandate be justified as it means to route out prejudice among those verdict to include GLIB’s message for a private speaker who takes to the street corner, it should be free from interference by the State based on the content of what he says.

This approval of petitioners’ unedited statement however great does not justify using the State’s power to compel inclusion of the message petitioners do not wish to carry.

The opinion of the Court is unanimous.