June 28, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
High court upholds Calif. college's non-discrimination policy

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld a non-discrimination policy at a California law school against a legal challenge from a Christian group seeking to discriminate against LGBT people.

In a 5-4 decision, justices determined in the case of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez that a non-discrimination policy protecting LGBT people at the University of California, Hastings College of Law is consistent with the U.S. Constitution.

The Hastings Christian Fellowship at the school sought to overturn Hastings’ non-discrimination policy to maintain its status as an official school group while prohibiting LGBT people from holding positions as officers.

The fellowship contended the school’s policy violated the chapter’s freedom of association and speech under the First Amendment.

But U.S. Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — who wrote the majority opinion in the ruling — said the school’s policy is constitutional because it’s “a reasonable, viewpoint-neutral condition on access to the student-organization forum.”

“In requiring CLS — in common with all other student organizations — to choose between welcoming all students and forgoing the benefits of official recognition, we hold, Hastings did not transgress constitutional limitations,” she writes.

Joining Ginsburg in the majority opinion were Associate Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Associate Justice John Paul Stevens marked his last day on the bench by filing a concurring opinion.

While upholding Hastings’ policy, the court also remanded to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals an assertion by the Christian Legal Society that Hastings has been selectively applying its non-discrimination policy.

Associate Justice Samuel Alito filed the dissent. In his opinion, Alito writes that the Supreme Court didn’t properly address the constitutionality of Hastings’ policy and is setting precedent that could stifle free speech.

“Brushing aside inconvenient precedent, the Court arms public educational institutions with a handy weapon for suppressing the speech of unpopular groups,” Alito writes.

Joining Alito in the dissenting opinion were Chief Justice John Roberts as well as Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

In the majority opinion, Ginsburg notes as an official group, the Christian Legal Society chapter would be entitled to financial assistance from the school derived from mandatory student fees.

She writes current policy in place “ensures that no Hastings student is forced to fund a group that would reject her as a member.”

Additionally, Ginsburg emphasizes that although Hastings may exclude the Christian Legal Society chapter as an official group — or as a registered student organization — the organization still has some capacity to meet and communicate on campus.

“In this case, Hastings offered CLS access to school facilities to conduct meetings and the use of chalkboards and generally available bulletin boards to advertise events,” Ginsburg writes. “Although CLS could not take advantage of RSO-specific methods of communication … the advent of electronic media and social-networking sites reduces the importance of those channels.”

In a statement, Christopher Stoll, senior attorney for the National Center of Lesbian Rights, said the decision “affirmed the longstanding doctrine” that non-discrimination policies don’t “violate free speech when applied in a consistent and even-handed way.”

“The Court rejected the dangerous argument that anti-gay groups must be given a special exemption from non-discrimination policies,” Stoll said.

NCLR was among the groups representing Outlaw, Hastings’ LGBT student group, which intervened to defend Hastings’ nondiscrimination policy.

The Hastings College of Law and the Christian Legal Society didn’t immediately respond to the Blade’s request to comment.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

3 Comments
  • Peter the saint

    Damn you, Alito, you are lying to the American people, and you know it! The student lawyers group is STILL “FREE TO EXPRESS THAT WHICH WE HATE”! Any day, any hour, any time, they can write it, shout it, spew it through all hours of the night. They just cannot demand communal money to support it!!

    Oh Lord, why do we have such non-sensical, illogical Justices on our Supreme Court? Because we don’t– they are not stupid– we have supreme court justices WILLFULLY lying and misleading the ignorant and the ill-informed in our society, and it’s for a reason: to lead them away from the USA’s leadership on issues of justice and truth and equality and peoples’ civil rights. They are pushing for corporations over people, profits over the personal, religious over our sacred humanity.

    These NeoConservative justices want a revolution, plain and simple, and you know what? They ARE in a position of the greatest possible power to make it happen. This ruling and others recently bodes VERY badly for the future of ALL Americans, if not the world; not just LGBT people. And one “middle-of-the-road” Kagan is NOT going to change what is happening in that courtroom. Really, we need help, and quickly…

  • Alito, and his blood mental brother Thomas, are both of the same church – now known as Molesters R US, run by the vatican.

    The same people who have yet to EXcommunicate Hitler, born and baptised Catholic in very Catholic Austria in 1888 or 89. And he documented his learned behavior of the Jews, Jesus own people, in Mein Kampf. A hatred given to the world for a millenia by the “church” of Rome.

    And the Pope, born in 1928 in Nazi germany in 2009, in 2009 UNexcommunicated a Bishop Williamson, who is a holocaust denier.

    Jeus must weep for what has been done in His name. Hell can’t come soon enough for some of the hierarchy of the Catholic church.

    Whose greatest contribution to mankind has been the ability to brainwash people into a fixed in concrete mindset, based on fear of going to hell, an insurance policy of life after death, and the use of Confession to get the goods on you, and terrorize you that hell awaits you if you don’t comply.

    Reminds me of a man who failed at everything he did ,eg art, being a housepainter, etc etc. But he excelled at one thing – Demagoguery. His words (he apparently only killed a couple people by his own hand) gave the world 55 million deaths, before he committed suicide when the communists were at his bunkers gates in april 1945. And again, the church has yet to excommunicate him.

    Because it was their wordss that led to hatred of he Jews over a millenia. And their Pope of the time Pius ^ (6?), who through his church as a city-state, gave passports to nazi officials so they could escape to Argentina.

  • I would like to compare the church to am insurance business

    YOu sell policies based on stories from 2000 years ago, about a good man apparently, who supposedly came back from the dead, and did the same for 3 or 4 people.

    In an age filled with ignorance and superstition.

    Amd for these policies, you rake in $6 billion $$$ in the USA alone. And have zero other proof other then those stories, that your policy pays off.

    while even with medicine as advanced as it is today , an ineresting factoid is that every year about 2-3 people are delivered, heart beating, lungs breathing, to a funeral home, with a toe tag and their death certificate.

    they couldn’t build enough jails to put the perpetrators of that kind of insurance scam in jail.

    Should make you wonder.

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