The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a
public law school in California could deny recognition of a student
group that bans gay students from membership.
The Christian Legal Society (CLS) was
rejected as a registered student group at the University of
California's Hastings College of Law in San Francisco because it
banned gay students from membership.
Officers and voting members of the
socially conservative group are required to sign a “statement of
faith” prohibiting “fornication, adultery and homosexual
The college's decision excluded the
group from receiving school funding and other benefits, which the
group argued was a violation of its First Amendment right of
Writing for the court's majority,
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg disagreed: “Compliance with Hastings'
all-comers policy, we conclude, is 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. CLS, it bears emphasis, seeks not parity with other
organizations, but a preferential exemption from Hastings' policy.”
Justice Samuel A. Alito was joined by
Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and
Clarence Thomas in his dissent.
Alito called the ruling “a serious
setback for freedom of expression in this country.”
The decision is good news for gay
rights advocates who worry about the conservative leanings of the
court as three cases wend their way to the Supreme Court. All of the
cases involve the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry.
Two of the cases challenge the federal
Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which blocks married gay couples from
accessing federal benefits, while a
third questions the constitutionality of California's gay marriage
ban, Proposition 8.
Advocates fear that a loss in the
Supreme Court would irreparably harm the gay marriage movement in the
Last week, the
court ruled in favor of gay rights advocates seeking to release the
names of signers to a Washington ballot measure that sought to repeal
a gay rights law.