Volume 72, Number 5

November 1997

Equal Access or Free Speech: The Constitutionality of Public Accomodations Laws

Lauren J. Rosenblum

This Note proposes that a claim that freedom of speech or expressive association is infringed by operation of a public accommodations law should be subjected to the tests developed by the Supreme Court for the analysis of content-neutral restrictions on those rights. A public accommodations statute is a content-neutral regulation: the government’s purpose in enacting and enforcing the statute is not related to the suppression of free expression. Because the Court has decided that content-neutral regulations present less of a threat to the values underlying the First Amendment than do content-based restrictions, a content-neutral regulation is not presumptively invalid. Such a regulation is constitutional if justified on the basis of a sufficiently strong governmental interest which is not related to its effect on individual freedoms.