Roberts v. United States Jaycees

RESPONDENT: United States Jaycees
LOCATION: United States Jaycees

DOCKET NO.: 83-724
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 468 US 609 (1984)
ARGUED: Apr 18, 1984
DECIDED: Jul 03, 1984

Carl D. Hall, Jr. - Argued the cause for the appellee
Richard L. Varco, Jr. - Argued the cause for the appellants

Facts of the case

According to its bylaws, membership in the United States Jaycees was limited to males between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five. Females and older males were limited to associate membership in which they were prevented from voting or holding local or national office. Two chapters of the Jaycees in Minnesota, contrary to the bylaws, admitted women as full members. When the national organization revoked the chapters' licenses, they filed a discrimination claim under a Minnesota anti-discrimination law. The national organization brought a lawsuit against Kathryn Roberts of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, who was responsible for the enforcement of the anti-discrimination law.


Did Minnesota's attempts to enforce the anti-discrimination law violate the Jaycees' right to free association under the First Amendment?

Media for Roberts v. United States Jaycees

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 18, 1984 in Roberts v. United States Jaycees

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Roberts against the United States Jaycees.

Mr. Varco, I think you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Richard L. Varco, Jr.:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court, at issue today are two conflicting claims.

On one hand, the states, that it can prohibit sex discrimination in certain commercial associations, and on the other, the United States Jaycees, with a constitutionally protected freedom of association, permits it to engage in precisely that conduct.

In order to understand those claims, it's necessary that the facts of this case be made clear, and I'd like to take a few minutes to do just that.

What the Jaycees does, and what it offers, and how it treats its members are essential to an understanding of this case.

What the organization does is offer leadership training and leadership skills and the opportunity to obtain those skills and obtain that training to certain individuals.

It offers this training and these opportunities in three types of programs.

The first type of program is the program in which the Jaycees train an individual to better himself or herself.

Such programs would be learning how to be a better speaker.

A second type of program is a program that they call management skills.

That indicates that the Jaycees train people to run meetings, to run programs.

A third type of program that the Jaycees runs and provides opportunities for leadership training in are programs which merge those first two types of skills, but which work toward the betterment of the community, so that, for example, an individual Jaycee learns these individual skills, learns how to run a program, and then runs a program for the betterment of their community.

These programs are made available through some 7,000 local chapters by a national organization, and they're run on a local basis in local communities.

The unfortunate part, from the State's point point of view, about these programs is that women have admission to the leadership training opportunities that are provided, but they're on a limited basis.

What women cannot do in these organizations is that they cannot vote, they cannot hold office, and they cannot receive any of the awards that the Jaycees give for performance in these programs.

Thus, what happens is the Jaycees can buy part of this program... female Jaycees can buy part of this program, but they can't buy all of it.

Now, the Jaycees have pictured themselves as a private membership organization, and I think it's essential to understand that they really operate the way a business operates.

For example, their national headquarters in Tulsa, Oklahoma have a marketing department, a department that's designed to shape and promote the Jaycee image.

In 1980 this had 40 employees and had a budget of some $2 million.

In addition to that, they have a membership development department that creates these programs that I referred to you about.

In the 1980 Annual Report the Jaycees referred to these programs as some among the most useful that they have in getting career opportunities and new jobs.

Another indication of the business aspect of this community... of this organization... is the way in which the Jaycees recruit.

For example, in 1980 they had a membership of some 295,000 members; 120 to 130,000 of those members had been recruited the previous year.

Warren E. Burger:

Well, what does that... how does that bear on any of the issues in this case?

Richard L. Varco, Jr.:

I think, Mr. Chief Justice--

Warren E. Burger:

How they get their numbers?

Richard L. Varco, Jr.:

--I think what it shows is that it operates the way a business operates.

Businesses go out and seek customers.

They go out on a continuous basis to look for people to buy their products.