Public accommodations

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In US law, public accommodations are generally defined as facilities, both public and private, used by the public. Examples include retail stores, rental establishments and service establishments as well as educational institutions, recreational facilities, and service centers.

Under United States federal law, public accommodations must be accessible to the handicapped and may not discriminate on the basis of "race, color, religion, or national origin."[1][2] Private clubs were specifically exempted under federal law[3] but not religious organizations.[4][5]

Various states in the United States, in a number of nonuniform laws, provide for nondiscrimination in public accommodation.

Federal law

Federal legislation dealing with public accommodations include these:

State laws

Many states and their subdivisions prohibited discrimination in places of public accommodation prior to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title II).[6][7] As of 2015, 45 states have an anti-discrimination public accommodation law for nondisabled individuals.[8] The laws all protect against discrimination based upon race, gender, ethnicity, and religion.[8] There are 19 states that prohibit discrimination in public accommodation based upon age.[8]

Several states also have protections for breastfeeding in public.[9] In addition several states provide for non-discrimination in public accommodation when based upon sexual orientation and/or gender identity.[10]

Private clubs were exempted under federal law[3] but not in many states' laws. For example, in interpreting a Minnesota law in 1984,[11] the United States Supreme Court declared the previously all-male United States Junior Chamber, a chamber of commerce organization for persons between the ages of 18 and 36, to be a public accommodation, thus compelling it to admit women.[12]

On the other hand, religious organizations were not specifically exempted by federal public accommodation law, but several state statutes on public accommodation include such exemptions.[13]

See also


  1. The ADA: Questions and Answers, The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Jan 17, 1997, retrieved Jul 23, 2012<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. The Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title II - Public Accommodation, retrieved Jul 23, 2012<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Sec. 201(e), Civil Rights Act of 1964
  4. Religious organizations and institutions were not mentioned in Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but they received an exemption under Title VII. See Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. Amos, 483 U.S. 327 (1987).
  5. Minow, Martha (2007). "Should Religious Groups Be Exempt From Civil Rights Laws" (PDF). Boston College Law Review. 48: 781–849, page 820. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 December 2014. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. For a list of states and localities that had anti-discrimination public accommodation legislation at the time, see Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, 379 U.S. 241, page 259 note 8 (1964) (listing statutes) and Bell v. Maryland, 378 U.S. 226, pages 284–285 (1964) (listing states and localities).
  7. Lerman, Lisa G. and Sanderson, Annette K. (1978). "Comment, Discrimination in Access to Public Places: A Survey of State and Federal Public Accommodations Laws". New York University Review of Law and Social Change. 7: 215–311. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas do not have such laws. "State Public Accommodation Laws". National Conference of State Legislatures.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Breastfeeding Laws, National Conference of State Legislatures, May 2011, retrieved April 4, 2013<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Chapman, Kelly Catherine (2012). "Gay Rights, the Bible, and Public Accommodations: An Empirical Approach to Religious Exemptions for Holdout States". Georgetown Law Journal. 100 (5): 1783–1827. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Roberts v. United States Jaycees
  12. "Jaycees Vote to Admit Women to Membership". The New York Times. August 17, 1984. Retrieved January 20, 2015. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Minow 2007, p. 813

Further reading

  • Cortner, Richard C. (2001). Civil Rights and Public Accommodations: The Heart of Atlanta Motel and McClung Cases. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-1077-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Carothers, Leslie A. (1968). The Public Accommodations Law of 1964: Arguments, Issues and Attitudes in a Legal Debate. Northampton, Massachusetts: Smith College. OCLC 160269.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Mook, Jonathan R. (2009). ADA Amendments Act of 2008 and its impact on public accommodations and commercial facilities. Newark, New Jersey: Matthew Bender (Lexis-Nexis). OCLC 428087829.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Office on the Americans with Disabilities Act, United States Department of Justice. The Americans with Disabilities Act Title III technical assistance manual. Washington, D.C.: United States Government.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>