On April 19, the United States Supreme Court will hear argument in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the third constitutional law case involving a law school – this time UC Hastings – that has found its way onto the High Court’s docket in less than a decade.
The root of the controversy is the law school’s refusal to recognize the CLS as a registered student organization (and its accompanying denial of University subsidization). CLS requires its members to sign an affirmation of adherence to CLS’s Statement of Faith “indicating the member holds certain Christian viewpoints commonly regarded in both the Roman Catholic and Protestant evangelical traditions as orthodox[,] . . . including the Bible’s prohibition of sexual conduct between persons of the same sex..” Hastings justifies its position because this CLS bylaw contravenes the University’s nondiscrimination compliance code prohibiting student organizations from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. Hastings insists that “under federal and state mandates,” the College is “precluded from utilizing student fees to fund [CLS]’s activities until CLS bylaws comport with the Hastings nondiscrimination compliance code.” CLS argues this condition of receiving and maintaining registered status imposed on CLS violates the organization’s First Amendment rights of expressive association, free speech, free exercise of religion, as well as the organization’s right of equal protection.
Punctuating the significance of this case are a staggering thirty-nine amicus briefs submitted to the Court by amici including the ACLU, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Bar Association, and State Attorneys General from Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, and Vermont (in support of Hastings), and the Boy Scouts of America, the Cato Institute, and State Attorneys General from Michigan, Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia (in support of CLS).
Former Solicitor General Gregory Garre will argue on behalf of Hastings, while former Tenth Circuit appellate court judge and current Stanford Law Professor Michael McConnell will represent the Christian Legal Society.