Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc., 515 U.S. 557 (1995)

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certiorari to the supreme judicial court of massachusetts

No. 94-749. Argued April 25, 1995—Decided June 19, 1995

Petitioner South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, an unincorporated association of individuals elected from various veterans groups, was authorized by the city of Boston to organize and conduct the St. Patrick's Day-Evacuation Day Parade. The Council refused a place in the 1993 event to respondent GLIB, an organization formed for the purpose of marching in the parade in order to express its members' pride in their Irish heritage as openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals, to show that there are such individuals in the community, and to support the like men and women who sought to march in the New York St. Patrick's Day parade. GLIB and some of its members filed this suit in state court, alleging that the denial of their application to march violated, inter alia, a state law prohibiting discrimination on account of sexual orientation in places of public accommodation. In finding such a violation and ordering the Council to include GLIB in the parade, the trial court, among other things, concluded that the parade had no common theme other than the involvement of the participants, and that, given the Council's lack of selectivity in choosing parade participants and its failure to circumscribe the marchers' messages, the parade lacked any expressive purpose, such that GLIB's inclusion therein would not violate the Council's First Amendment rights. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts affirmed.

Held: The state courts' application of the Massachusetts public accommodations law to require private citizens who organize a parade to include among the marchers a group imparting a message that the organizers do not wish to convey violates the First Amendment. Pp. 566-581. (a) Confronted with the state courts' conclusion that the factual characteristics of petitioners' activity place it within the realm of non-expressive conduct, this Court has a constitutional duty to conduct an independent examination of the record as a whole, without deference to those courts, to assure that their judgment does not constitute a forbidden intrusion on the field of free expression. See, e. g., New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U. S. 254, 285. Pp. 566-568.


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