Just Shoot Me: Public Accommodation Anti-Discrimination Laws Take Aim at First Amendment Freedom of Speech

By Gottry, James M. | Vanderbilt Law Review, April 2011 | Go to article overview

Just Shoot Me: Public Accommodation Anti-Discrimination Laws Take Aim at First Amendment Freedom of Speech


Gottry, James M., Vanderbilt Law Review


INTRODUCTION: A PICTURE IS WORTH 1,000 WORDS, OR $6,637.94 .......................................................................... 962

I. HISTORY OF PUBLIC ACCOMMODATION LAWS AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT ........................................................... 965

A. Accommodation to Domination: The Growth of Public Accommodation Anti-Discrimination Laws ...................................... 965

B. Free Speech: Some Restrictions May Apply, See Your State for Details ...................................... 968

1. First Amendment Protection Extends to Corporate Speakers ................................. 968

2. Expressive Activity Falls Under the Protection of the First Amendment ............. 970

3. "Free Speech" Also Applies to Those Things You Choose Not to Express .............. 971

C. Key Cases Examining the Clash Between Public Accommodation Laws and Free Speech .................. 971

1. Follow the Parade: Supreme Court Precedent Says Free Speech Comes First ................................................. 972

2. Other Supreme Court Cases Support the Analysis in Hurley and Wooley .............. 975

3. The Inapplicability of O'Brien to Elane Photography and Similar Cases .................. 978

II. PROTECTED ARTISTIC EXPRESSION, OR PROHIBITED DISCRIMINATION? .............................................................. 978

A. A Snapshot of Elane Photography as It Develops ................................................................. 978

B. First Amendment v. Anti-Discrimination: The Price Is Wrong ................................................. 980

1. Public Accommodation Analysis .................. 981

a. When Is an Entity Correctly Deemed a Public Accommodation? .... 981

b. When Is the Public Accommodation Law Actually Violated? ..................... 983

2. First Amendment Analysis .......................... 985

a. Is the Activity Sufficiently Expressive? ....................................... 985

b. Was the Entity Compelled to Speak? .......................................... 987

c. Is the Entity Simply a Conduit for Its Clients' Speech? ...................... 989

d. May the Entity Easily Disclaim the Message of Its Speech? ................ 990

3. A Spectrum of Expressive Activity .............. 991

C. Focusing: The Appropriate Level of Scrutiny .......... 993

1. Strict Scrutiny ............................................ 993

2. Intermediate Scrutiny ................................. 995

ill. Solution: Framing the Picture .................................... 996

A. Legislative Changes ............................................... 997

B. Changes in the Courts ............................................ 999

1. When "Discrimination" Is Simply a Refusal to Endorse a Message ..................... 999

2. Measuring the Expressiveness .................. 1000

3. Political Speech: It's Not Just for Politicians ................................................. 1001

4. Applying Hurley to Balance Competing Interests .................................. 1002

Conclusion .............................................................................. 1002

INTRODUCTION: A PICTURE IS WORTH 1,000 WORDS, OR $6,637.94

Imagine a young woman, Elaine, who is a gifted photographer. She launches a small photography business with her husband, and soon she is in demand throughout the state. Her specialty is weddings. One day Elaine receives a request to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony. Politely, she declines, explaining that she only photographs traditional weddings. Several months later, she is contacted by the state's Human Rights Commission. Elaine learns that a complaint has been filed against her, and she is being charged with discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. …

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