Christian Legal Society v. Martinez

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Christian Legal Society v. Martinez
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued April 19, 2010
Decided June 28, 2010
Full case nameChristian Legal Society Chapter of the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, aka Hastings Christian Fellowship v. Martinez, et al.
Docket no.08-1371
Citations561 U.S. 661 (more)
130 S. Ct. 2971; 177 L. Ed. 2d 838; 2010 U.S. LEXIS 5367
ArgumentOral argument
Case history
PriorJudgment for defendants affirmed, Christian Legal Society v. Kane, 319 F. App'x 645 (9th Cir. 2009), cert. granted, 558 U.S. 661 (2011).
SubsequentOn remand, Christian Legal Society v. Wu, 626 F.3d 483 (9th Cir. 2010)
The policy of Hastings, which requires student groups to accept all students regardless of their status or beliefs in order to obtain official recognition, is a reasonable, viewpoint-neutral condition on access to the forum; it therefore does not transgress First Amendment limitations. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed and remanded.
Court membership
Chief Justice
John Roberts
Associate Justices
John P. Stevens · Antonin Scalia
Anthony Kennedy · Clarence Thomas
Ruth Bader Ginsburg · Stephen Breyer
Samuel Alito · Sonia Sotomayor
Case opinions
MajorityGinsburg, joined by Stevens, Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor
DissentAlito, joined by Roberts, Scalia, Thomas
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. I

Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, 561 U.S. 661 (2010),[1] is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court upheld, against a First Amendment challenge, the policy of the University of California, Hastings College of the Law governing official recognition of student groups, which required the groups to accept all students regardless of their status or beliefs in order to obtain recognition.


Hastings required that recognized student organizations forced students to participate regardless of the student's status or beliefs. One student organization, the Christian Legal Society (CLS), required members to subscribe to a "Statement of Beliefs" and refrain from certain proscribed behavior. Hastings denied the CLS recognition as a student organization.[2][3] The beliefs and behavior at issue were those of LGBT students; neither those students, nor those who advocated for them, were allowed to become voting members.[4]

The CLS sued, arguing that the university, as a public institution, could not restrict the group's rights to freedom of speech, association, and religion; the National Center for Lesbian Rights represented Hastings Outlaw, a campus gay rights group that joined acting chancellor and dean Leo P. Martinez to defend the policy.[5] Latham & Watkins decided to represent Hastings pro bono, and former Solicitor General Gregory G. Garre argued the case at the Supreme Court.[6][7]

Opinion of the Court[edit]

CLS argued that Hastings could alter its policy to allow organizations to exclude a student if the student's "beliefs and conduct" did not correspond with those of the student organization but not allow a student to be excluded from an organization based on the student's "status", that is, race or gender. Justice Ginsburg, writing for the majority, said that Hastings would then have to review each organization's exclusionary rules to determine "whether a student organization cloaked prohibited status exclusion in belief-based garb". She offered the example of a hypothetical "Male-Supremacy Club" that forbade a female member from running for its presidency, leaving Hastings to determine whether her election bid was denied because of her sex or because she did not adhere to the doctrine of male supremacy. Since the particular issue in the case involved the exclusion of homosexual students, CLS had asserted that it did not restrict membership based on sexual orientation but based on "conduct and belief that the conduct is not wrong". Ginsburg rejected that distinction, noting that with respect to sexual orientation the court has "declined to distinguish between status and conduct" and offering the parallel from Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic:[8] "A tax on wearing yarmulkes is a tax on Jews".[1]

Ginsburg's analysis explained how this case differed from two earlier cases involving university funding of student groups. In Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169 (1972), the court required Central Connecticut State College to recognize a chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society[9] and in Rosenberger v. University of Virginia (1995) ruled that student religious publications were entitled to equal funding at the University of Virginia.[10] In these cases, the educational institutions singled out a group for unfavorable treatment based on the organization's purpose, leftist activism in the first case and Christian evangelism in the second. In CLS v. Martinez, by contrast, Ginsburg argued, Hastings wanted to treat all student groups the same while the CLS sought an exemption for their particular membership policies.[11]

Stevens' concurrence[edit]

In his concurring opinion, Justice Stevens noted that CLS denies membership to those who engage in "unrepentant homosexual conduct", and the same argument could be made by groups that "may exclude or mistreat Jews, blacks, and women – or those who do not share their contempt for Jews, blacks, and women".[12]

Kennedy's concurrence[edit]

In his concurring opinion, Justice Kennedy observed that like-minded students may be less effective when forced to accept members of different viewpoints but found the benefits of an all inclusive condition more valuable. Kennedy explained that Hasting's all-comer condition promotes student development and growth, which is a legitimate purpose for a limited forum.


Justice Alito wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas. The dissent disagreed on a major point: whether Hasting's policy was an "all-comers" policy or a "nondiscrimination" policy. If the latter, the Society would not be able to reject members based on their legally protected status but could discriminate on the basis of conduct or belief. Alito likened the case to Boy Scouts v. Dale, where the "message" of the group is burdened by forced inclusion of unwanted members.

Subsequent developments[edit]

The court's decision, especially Ginsburg's discussion of "status" and "conduct", was promptly cited by plaintiffs in Perry v. Schwarzenegger as Supreme Court precedent that sexual orientation is "an identifiable class", opposing the defense's argument that sexual orientation is "behavioral".[13][14]

On June 30, 2010, Peter Schmidt wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education that it was unlikely that the ruling would end litigation over policies on student groups and that colleges should not think that their policies on student groups are immune to legal challenges as a result of the decision.[15] Others warned that the decision threatened the rights of on-campus student media organizations.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, 561 U.S. 661 (2010).  This article incorporates public domain material from this U.S government document.
  2. ^ Liptak, Adam (June 28, 2010), "Justices Rule Against Group That Excludes Gay Students", The New York Times, retrieved July 1, 2010
  3. ^ Schmidt, Peter, "Constitutional Rights Clash in Battle of Law School and Christian Group", The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 28, 2010
  4. ^ "Court Rules Against Christian Student Group", The Advocate, June 28, 2010, retrieved July 1, 2010
  5. ^ Barnes, Robert (April 18, 2010). "Supreme Court to consider case against California law school". Washington Post.
  6. ^ "Court splits sharply on campus Christian argument". Fox News. April 19, 2010.
  7. ^ Sarah Murray (November 3, 2011). "Litigation: drawing the line". Financial Times.
  8. ^ Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic, 506 U.S. 263 (1993).
  9. ^ Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169 (1972).
  10. ^ Rosenberger v. University of Virginia, 515 U.S. 819 (organization).
  11. ^ Bravin, Jess and Nathan Koppel, "School Can Deny Funding to Group", The Wall Street Journal, June 29, 2010
  12. ^ Barnes, Robert (June 29, 2010), "Justices say school can require student groups to accept all who are interested", The Washington Post, retrieved July 1, 2010
  13. ^ Mauro, Tony (July 1, 2010), "High court's Christian Legal Society ruling already making waves" Archived July 12, 2010, at, First Amendment Center, retrieved July 1, 2010
  14. ^ Liptak, Adam (July 19, 2010) "Looking for Time Bombs and Tea Leaves on Gay Marriage", The New York Times, retrieved July 20, 2010
  15. ^ Schmidt, Peter, "Ruling Is Unlikely to End Litigation Over Policies on Student Groups", The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 30, 2010
  16. ^ Pritchard, Andrew D. (June 2013). "Come One, Come All Into the Newsroom? Student Publications After Christian Legal Society v. Martinez". Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly. 90 (2): 287–307. doi:10.1177/1077699013482905.

External links[edit]