Freedom of Association After Roberts v. United States Jaycees

The decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Roberts v. United States Jaycees, upholding a Minnesota ruling which requires the Minnesota Jaycees to admit women as full members, ended one controversy but marked only the beginning of a far larger one. It was predicted by many that U.S. Jaycees would answer the question of whether private associations with restrictive membership policies were vulnerable to state anti-discrimination laws or were constitutionally protected. It did not. Instead, while rejecting the Jaycees’ constitutional claims, the Court established a comprehensive framework for analyzing future claims of associational freedom that contains a number of subjective elements inviting litigation. In view of the significance of the U.S. Jaycees analysis to a wide range of cases involving private associations, the case can fairly be called “a landmark.” It is, however, less a “landmark” in the sense of marking a turning point in the development of the law than in the sense of being a point of orientation. The principal purpose of this Article is to explore the implications of U.S Jaycees for other associations with restrictive membership policies, and to propose ways to reduce some of the uncertainty engendered by the decision.