44 Liquormart, Inc. v. Rhode Island, 517 U. S. 484 (1996)

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Cite as: 517 U. S. 484 (1996)

Opinion of the Court

Justice Ginsburg join, an opinion with respect to Part VI, in which Justice Kennedy, Justice Thomas, and Justice Ginsburg join, and an opinion with respect to Part IV, in which Justice Kennedy and Justice Ginsburg join.

Last Term we held that a federal law abridging a brewer's right to provide the public with accurate information about the alcoholic content of malt beverages is unconstitutional. Rubin v. Coors Brewing Co., 514 U. S. 476, 491 (1995). We now hold that Rhode Island's statutory prohibition against advertisements that provide the public with accurate information about retail prices of alcoholic beverages is also invalid. Our holding rests on the conclusion that such an advertising ban is an abridgment of speech protected by the First Amendment and that it is not shielded from constitutional scrutiny by the Twenty-first Amendment.1


In 1956, the Rhode Island Legislature enacted two separate prohibitions against advertising the retail price of alcoholic beverages. The first applies to vendors licensed in Rhode Island as well as to out-of-state manufacturers, wholesalers, and shippers. It prohibits them from "advertising in any manner whatsoever" the price of any alcoholic beverage offered for sale in the State; the only exception is for price tags or signs displayed with the merchandise within licensed premises and not visible from the street.2 The second stat-1 Although the text of the First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press," the Amendment applies to the States under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See Board of Ed., Island Trees Union Free School Dist. No. 26 v. Pico, 457 U. S. 853, 855, n. 1 (1982); Grosjean v. American Press Co., 297 U. S. 233, 244 (1936); Gitlow v. New York, 268 U. S. 652, 666 (1925).

2 Rhode Island Gen. Laws 3-8-7 (1987) provides: "Advertising price of malt beverages, cordials, wine or distilled liquor.— No manufacturer, wholesaler, or shipper from without this state and no holder of a license issued under the provisions of this title and chapter


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