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ABA sides with law school

Washington (Dolan) — In a Supreme Court battle between the right of a law school to enforce rules barring discrimination and students’ First Amendment right to free association, the American Bar Association has taken the side of the law school.

In an amicus brief filed at the Court Tuesday, the ABA acknowledged the importance of both rights, but urged the Court to affirm the balance struck in the 9th Circuit decision.

The 9th Circuit held that the University of California's Hastings College of the Law did not unduly suppress students' speech rights when it denied funding and the use of the Hastings name to a Christian student group that excluded gay students and non-Christians from its membership.

“While public universities have a unique interest in protecting free speech, they also have a substantial and justified interest in enforcing neutral nondiscrimination policies by refusing to subsidize student organizations that discriminate against members of the school community on bases that the school deems inconsistent with its own mission of creating an educational environment characterized by equality and fairness,” the brief states. “[A]s this court's government-funding cases make plain, even though organizations that receive government financial assistance have a protected interest in the integrity of their message, public institutions may impose reasonable regulations on receipt of financial and other assistance.”

Oral arguments in the case are set for April 19.

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