What's at stake
- The right of private associations to adhere to their own standards and beliefs in selecting members or participants.
- The right of private groups to preserve their message and purpose by not associating with others with whom they disagree.
The Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston (GLIB) was formed with the intention of marching in a longstanding St. Patrick’s Day parade “as a way to express pride in their Irish heritage as openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals.” When the parade’s private organizers, a veterans’ group, denied GLIB’s request, GLIB sued them, claiming that the organizers' exclusion of the group from the parade violated a Massachusetts law that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in places of public accommodation. GLIB received a court order allowing the group to march in the parade. The following year, when the parade organizers denied GLIB’s second request, the veterans’ group stood up for its rights by filing its own lawsuit alleging violations of its state and federal constitutional rights.
The right of a private or religious group to select members and participants based on their beliefs and standards is crucial to the preservation of the group’s purpose and message. Imagine a vegetarian group being forced by the law to admit meat-eaters and hunters, or a Christian association being required by law to allow atheists to direct the activities and voice of the group. Soon the very reason for the group’s existence—the furtherance of a particular message or belief—would be gone!
Nonetheless, both a state trial court and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that the parade organizers violated the law when they declined to allow the homosexual group to participate in their parade. The veterans’ only remaining chance to protect their freedom of association was to petition the United States Supreme Court to take their case.
Our role in this case
Alliance Defending Freedom provided funding for the veterans’ appeal to the United States Supreme Court.