Although I've learned not to expect much from the right-leaning Supreme Court, I've been pleasantly surprised by some of their recent decisions. First was Holy See v. John Doe, in which the court upheld a ruling that the Vatican isn't immune from lawsuits over its protection of pedophiles. The second was Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, in which a Christian student group sued a California law school to demand - what else? - the legal right to discriminate against gays.
The law school has a policy that all official student groups must accept all comers and may not turn anyone away on grounds of race, gender, or sexual orientation. The Christian group claimed that they should be able to exclude gays and still receive all the benefits granted to officially recognized student groups: university funding, the use of university facilities for meetings, and the right to use the university's newsletter for their communications. Fortunately, the Supreme Court disagreed:
The court held that the all-comers condition on access to a limited public forum was both reasonable and viewpoint neutral, and therefore did not violate CLS's right to free speech. Nor, in the court's view, did Hastings impermissibly impair CLS's right to expressive association: Hastings did not order CLS to admit any student, nor did the school proscribe any speech; Hastings merely placed conditions on the use of school facilities and funds.
This decision was both simple and reasonable, and is the obvious consequence of state and federal laws forbidding the government to cooperate in discrimination. Since the activity fee that funds student groups is mandatory, Hastings' policy ensures that no student is "forced to fund a group that would reject her as a member". As the court points out, other groups such as fraternities and sororities don't have official school recognition, yet they continue to thrive, and CLS is also still in existence and still holding its own events.
Departing Justice John Paul Stevens summed up the issue at hand in his concurrence, in a praiseworthy reminder that religiously inspired bigotry is no different than any other kind of bigotry:
Other groups may exclude or mistreat Jews, blacks, and women or those who do not share their contempt for Jews, blacks, and women. A free society must tolerate such groups. It need not subsidize them, give them its official imprimatur, or grant them equal access to law school facilities.
All well and good, and I look forward to this decision being applied across the country.