HEART OF ATLANTA MOTEL, INC. v. UNITED STATES ET AL.
Decided December 14, 1964
APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA.
MR. JUSTICE CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.
Appellant, the owner of a large motel in Atlanta, Georgia, which restricts its clientele to white persons, three-fourths of whom are transient interstate travelers, sued for declaratory relief and to enjoin enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, contending that the prohibition of racial discrimination in places of public accommodation affecting commerce exceeded Congress' powers under the Commerce Clause and violated other parts of the Constitution. A three-judge District Court upheld the constitutionality of Title II, §§ 201 (a), (b)(1) and (c)(1), the provisions attacked, and on appellees' counterclaim permanently enjoined appellant from refusing to accommodate Negro guests for racial reasons. Held:
1. Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a valid exercise of Congress' power under the Commerce Clause as applied to a place of public accommodation serving interstate travelers. Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3, distinguished. Pp. 249-262.
(a) The interstate movement of persons is "commerce" which concerns more than one State. Pp. 255-256.
(b) The protection of interstate commerce is within the regulatory power of Congress under the Commerce Clause whether or not the transportation of persons between States is "commercial." P. 256.
(c) Congress' action in removing the disruptive effect which it found racial discrimination has on interstate travel is not invalidated because Congress was also legislating against what it considered to be moral wrongs. P. 257.
(d) Congress had power to enact appropriate legislation with regard to a place of public accommodation such as appellant's motel even if it is assumed to be of a purely "local" character, as Congress' power over interstate commerce extends to the regulation of local incidents thereof which might have a substantial and harmful effect upon that commerce. P. 258.
(2) The prohibition in Title II of racial discrimination in public accommodations affecting commerce does not violate the Fifth Amendment as being a deprivation of property or liberty without due process of law. Pp. 258-261.
(3) Such prohibition does not violate the Thirteenth Amendment as being "involuntary servitude." P. 261.
: MR. JUSTICE CLARK delivered the
opinion of the Court.
This is a declaratory judgment action, 28 U. S. C. § 2201
and § 2202 (1958 ed.), attacking the constitutionality of Title II of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 241, 243.[SEE
APPENDIX] In addition to declaratory relief the complaint sought an
injunction restraining the enforcement of the Act and damages against appellees
based on allegedly resulting injury in the event compliance was required.
Appellees counterclaimed for enforcement under § 206 (a) of the Act and asked
for a three-judge district court under § 206 (b). A three-judge court, empaneled
under § 206 (b) as well as 28 U. S. C. § 2282 (1958 ed.), sustained the validity
of the Act and issued a permanent injunction on appellees' counterclaim
restraining appellant from continuing to violate the Act which remains in effect
on order of MR. JUSTICE BLACK, 85 S. Ct. 1. We affirm the judgment.
1. The Factual Background and Contentions of the Parties.
The case comes here on admissions and stipulated facts.
Appellant owns and operates the Heart of Atlanta Motel which has 216 rooms
available to transient guests. The motel is located on Courtland Street, two
blocks from downtown Peachtree Street. It is readily accessible to interstate
highways 75 and 85 and state highways 23 and 41. Appellant solicits patronage
from outside the State of Georgia through various national advertising media,
including magazines of national circulation; it maintains over 50 billboards and
highway signs within the State, soliciting patronage for the motel; it accepts
convention trade from outside Georgia and approximately 75% of its registered
guests are from out of State. Prior to passage of the Act the motel had followed
a practice of refusing to rent rooms to Negroes, and it alleged that it intended
to continue to do so. In an effort to perpetuate that policy this suit was
The appellant contends that Congress in passing this Act
exceeded its power to regulate commerce under Art. I, § 8, cl. 3, of the
Constitution of the United States; that the Act violates the Fifth Amendment
because appellant is deprived of the right to choose its customers and operate
its business as it wishes, resulting in a taking of its liberty and property
without due process of law and a taking of its property without just
compensation; and, finally, that by requiring appellant to rent available rooms
to Negroes against its will, Congress is subjecting it to involuntary servitude
in contravention of the Thirteenth Amendment.
The appellees counter that the unavailability to Negroes
of adequate accommodations interferes significantly with interstate travel, and
that Congress, under the Commerce Clause, has power to remove such obstructions
and restraints; that the Fifth Amendment does not forbid reasonable regulation
and that consequential damage does not constitute a "taking" within the meaning
of that amendment; that the Thirteenth Amendment claim fails because it is
entirely frivolous to say that an amendment directed to the abolition of human
bondage and the removal of widespread disabilities associated with slavery
places discrimination in public accommodations beyond the reach of both federal
and state law.
At the trial the appellant offered no evidence, submitting
the case on the pleadings, admissions and stipulation of facts; however,
appellees proved the refusal of the motel to accept Negro transients after the
passage of the Act. The District Court sustained the constitutionality of the
sections of the Act under attack (§§ 201 (a), (b) (1) and (c) (1)) and issued a
permanent injunction on the counterclaim of the appellees. It restrained the
appellant from "refusing to accept Negroes as guests in the motel by reason of
their race or color" and from "making any distinction whatever upon the basis of
race or color in the availability of the goods, services, facilities,
privileges, advantages or accommodations offered or made available to the guests
of the motel, or to the general public, within or upon any of the premises of
the Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc."
2. The History of the Act.
Congress first evidenced its interest in civil rights
legislation in the Civil Rights or Enforcement Act of April 9, 1866.
1 There followed four
Acts, 2 with a fifth, the
Civil Rights Act of March 1, 1875,
3 culminating the series.
In 1883 this Court struck down the public accommodations sections of the 1875
Act in the Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3. No major legislation in this field
had been enacted by Congress for 82 years when the Civil Rights Act of 1957
4 became law. It was
followed by the Civil Rights Act of 1960.
5 Three years later, on
June 19, 1963, the late President Kennedy called for civil rights legislation in
a message to Congress to which he attached a proposed bill. Its stated purpose
"to promote the general welfare by eliminating discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin in . . . public accommodations through the exercise by Congress of the powers conferred upon it . . . to enforce the provisions of the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments, to regulate commerce among the several States, and to make laws necessary and proper to execute the powers conferred upon it by the Constitution." H. R. Doc. No. 124, 88th Cong., 1st Sess., at 14.
Bills were introduced in each House of the Congress,
embodying the President's suggestion, one in the Senate being S. 1732
6 and one in the House, H.
R. 7152. However, it was not until July 2, 1964, upon the recommendation of
President Johnson, that the Civil Rights Act of 1964, here under attack, was
After extended hearings each of these bills was favorably
reported to its respective house, H. R. 7152 on November 20, 1963, H. R. Rep.
No. 914, 88th Cong., 1st Sess., and S. 1732 on February 10, 1964, S. Rep. No.
872, 88th Cong., 2d Sess. Although each bill originally incorporated extensive
findings of fact these were eliminated from the bills as they were reported. The
House passed its bill in January 1964 and sent it to the Senate. Through a
bipartisan coalition of Senators Humphrey and Dirksen, together with other
Senators, a substitute was worked out in informal conferences. This substitute
was adopted by the Senate and sent to the House where it was adopted without
change. This expedited procedure prevented the usual report on the substitute
bill in the Senate as well as a Conference Committee report ordinarily filed in
such matters. Our only frame of reference as to the legislative history of the
Act is, therefore, the hearings, reports and debates on the respective bills in
The Act as finally adopted was most comprehensive,
undertaking to prevent through peaceful and voluntary settlement discrimination
in voting, as well as in places of accommodation and public facilities,
federally secured programs and in employment. Since Title II is the only portion
under attack here, we confine our consideration to those public accommodation
3. Title II of the Act.
This Title is divided into seven sections beginning with §
201 (a) which provides that:
"All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin."
There are listed in § 201 (b) four classes of business
establishments, each of which "serves the public" and "is a place of public
accommodation" within the meaning of § 201 (a) "if its operations affect
commerce, or if discrimination or segregation by it is supported by State
action." The covered establishments are:
"(1) any inn, hotel, motel, or other establishment which provides lodging to transient guests, other than an establishment located within a building which contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and which is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as his residence;
"(2) any restaurant, cafeteria . . . [not here involved];
"(3) any motion picture house . . . [not here involved];
"(4) any establishment . . . which is physically located within the premises of any establishment otherwise covered by this subsection, or . . . within the premises of which is physically located any such covered establishment . . . [not here involved]."
Section 201 (c) defines the phrase "affect commerce" as
applied to the above establishments. It first declares that "any inn, hotel,
motel, or other establishment which provides lodging to transient guests"
affects commerce per se. Restaurants, cafeterias, etc., in class two affect
commerce only if they serve or offer to serve interstate travelers or if a
substantial portion of the food which they serve or products which they sell
have "moved in commerce." Motion picture houses and other places listed in class
three affect commerce if they customarily present films, performances, etc.,
"which move in commerce." And the establishments listed in class four affect
commerce if they are within, or include within their own premises, an
establishment "the operations of which affect commerce." Private clubs are
excepted under certain conditions. See § 201 (e).
Section 201 (d) declares that "discrimination or
segregation" is supported by state action when carried on under color of any
law, statute, ordinance, regulation or any custom or usage required or enforced
by officials of the State or any of its subdivisions.
In addition, § 202 affirmatively declares that all persons
"shall be entitled to be free, at any establishment or place, from
discrimination or segregation of any kind on the ground of race, color,
religion, or national origin, if such discrimination or segregation is or
purports to be required by any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, rule, or
order of a State or any agency or political subdivision thereof."
Finally, § 203 prohibits the withholding or denial, etc.,
of any right or privilege secured by § 201 and § 202 or the intimidation,
threatening or coercion of any person with the purpose of interfering with any
such right or the punishing, etc., of any person for exercising or attempting to
exercise any such right.
The remaining sections of the Title are remedial ones for
violations of any of the previous sections. Remedies are limited to civil
actions for preventive relief. The Attorney General may bring suit where he has
"reasonable cause to believe that any person or group of persons is engaged in a
pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of any of the rights
secured by this title, and that the pattern or practice is of such a nature and
is intended to deny the full exercise of the rights herein described . . . ." §
A person aggrieved may bring suit, in which the Attorney
General may be permitted to intervene. Thirty days' written notice before filing
any such action must be given to the appropriate authorities of a State or
subdivision the law of which prohibits the act complained of and which has
established an authority which may grant relief therefrom. § 204 (c). In States
where such condition does not exist the court after a case is filed may refer it
to the Community Relations Service which is established under Title X of the
Act. § 204 (d). This Title establishes such service in the Department of
Commerce, provides for a Director to be appointed by the President with the
advice and consent of the Senate and grants it certain powers, including the
power to hold hearings, with reference to matters coming to its attention by
reference from the court or between communities and persons involved in disputes
arising under the Act.
4. Application of Title II to Heart of Atlanta Motel.
It is admitted that the operation of the motel brings it
within the provisions of § 201 (a) of the Act and that appellant refused to
provide lodging for transient Negroes because of their race or color and that it
intends to continue that policy unless restrained.
The sole question posed is, therefore, the
constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as applied to these facts. The
legislative history of the Act indicates that Congress based the Act on § 5 and
the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as well as its power to
regulate interstate commerce under Art. I, § 8, cl. 3, of the Constitution.
The Senate Commerce Committee made it quite clear that the
fundamental object of Title II was to vindicate "the deprivation of personal
dignity that surely accompanies denials of equal access to public
establishments." At the same time, however, it noted that such an objective has
been and could be readily achieved "by congressional action based on the
commerce power of the Constitution." S. Rep. No. 872, supra, at 16-17. Our study
of the legislative record, made in the light of prior cases, has brought us to
the conclusion that Congress possessed ample power in this regard, and we have
therefore not considered the other grounds relied upon. This is not to say that
the remaining authority upon which it acted was not adequate, a question upon
which we do not pass, but merely that since the commerce power is sufficient for
our decision here we have considered it alone. Nor is § 201 (d) or § 202, having
to do with state action, involved here and we do not pass upon either of those
5. The Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3 (1883), and their
In light of our ground for decision, it might be well at the outset to discuss the Civil Rights Cases, supra, which declared provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional. 18 Stat. 335, 336. We think that decision inapposite, and without precedential value in determining the constitutionality of the present Act. Unlike Title II of the present legislation, the 1875 Act broadly proscribed discrimination in "inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement," without limiting the categories of affected businesses to those impinging upon interstate commerce. In contrast, the applicability of Title II is carefully limited to enterprises having a direct and substantial relation to the interstate flow of goods and people, except where state action is involved. Further, the fact that certain kinds of businesses may not in 1875 have been sufficiently involved in interstate commerce to warrant bringing them within the ambit of the commerce power is not necessarily dispositive of the same question today. Our populace had not reached its present mobility, nor were facilities, goods and services circulating as readily in interstate commerce as they are today. Although the principles which we apply today are those first formulated by Chief Justice Marshall in Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1 (1824), the conditions of transportation and commerce have changed dramatically, and we must apply those principles to the present state of commerce. The sheer increase in volume of interstate traffic alone would give discriminatory practices which inhibit travel a far larger impact upon the Nation's commerce than such practices had on the economy of another day. Finally, there is language in the Civil Rights Cases which indicates that the Court did not fully consider whether the 1875 Act could be sustained as an exercise of the commerce power. Though the Court observed that "no one will contend that the power to pass it was contained in the Constitution before the adoption of the last three amendments [Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth]," the Court went on specifically to note that the Act was not "conceived" in terms of the commerce power and expressly pointed out:
"Of course, these remarks [as to lack of congressional
power] do not apply to those cases in which Congress is clothed with direct and
plenary powers of legislation over the whole subject, accompanied with an
express or implied denial of such power to the States, as in the regulation of
commerce with foreign nations, among the several States, and with the Indian
tribes . . . . In these cases Congress has power to pass laws for regulating the
subjects specified in every detail, and the conduct and transactions of
individuals in respect thereof." At 18.
Since the commerce power was not relied on by the
Government and was without support in the record it is understandable that the
Court narrowed its inquiry and excluded the Commerce Clause as a possible source
of power. In any event, it is clear that such a limitation renders the opinion
devoid of authority for the proposition that the Commerce Clause gives no power
to Congress to regulate discriminatory practices now found substantially to
affect interstate commerce. We, therefore, conclude that the Civil Rights Cases
have no relevance to the basis of decision here where the Act explicitly relies
upon the commerce power, and where the record is filled with testimony of
obstructions and restraints resulting from the discriminations found to be
existing. We now pass to that phase of the case.
6. The Basis of Congressional Action.
While the Act as adopted carried no congressional findings
the record of its passage through each house is replete with evidence of the
burdens that discrimination by race or color places upon interstate commerce.
See Hearings before Senate Committee on Commerce on S. 1732, 88th Cong., 1st
Sess.; S. Rep. No. 872, supra; Hearings before Senate Committee on the Judiciary
on S. 1731, 88th Cong., 1st Sess.; Hearings before House Subcommittee No. 5 of
the Committee on the Judiciary on miscellaneous proposals regarding Civil
Rights, 88th Cong., 1st Sess., ser. 4; H. R. Rep. No. 914, supra. This testimony
included the fact that our people have become increasingly mobile with millions
of people of all races traveling from State to State; that Negroes in particular
have been the subject of discrimination in transient accommodations, having to
travel great distances to secure the same; that often they have been unable to
obtain accommodations and have had to call upon friends to put them up
overnight, S. Rep. No. 872, supra, at 14-22; and that these conditions had
become so acute as to require the listing of available lodging for Negroes in a
special guidebook which was itself "dramatic testimony to the difficulties"
Negroes encounter in travel. Senate Commerce Committee Hearings, supra, at
692-694. These exclusionary practices were found to be nationwide, the Under
Secretary of Commerce testifying that there is "no question that this
discrimination in the North still exists to a large degree" and in the West and
Midwest as well. Id., at 735, 744. This testimony indicated a qualitative as
well as quantitative effect on interstate travel by Negroes. The former was the
obvious impairment of the Negro traveler's pleasure and convenience that
resulted when he continually was uncertain of finding lodging. As for the
latter, there was evidence that this uncertainty stemming from racial
discrimination had the effect of discouraging travel on the part of a
substantial portion of the Negro community. Id., at 744. This was the conclusion
not only of the Under Secretary of Commerce but also of the Administrator of the
Federal Aviation Agency who wrote the Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee
that it was his "belief that air commerce is adversely affected by the denial to
a substantial segment of the traveling public of adequate and desegregated
public accommodations." Id., at 12-13. We shall not burden this opinion with
further details since the voluminous testimony presents overwhelming evidence
that discrimination by hotels and motels impedes interstate travel.
7. The Power of Congress Over Interstate Travel.
The power of Congress to deal with these obstructions
depends on the meaning of the Commerce Clause. Its meaning was first enunciated
140 years ago by the great Chief Justice John Marshall in Gibbons v. Ogden, 9
Wheat. 1 (1824), in these words:
"The subject to be regulated is commerce; and . . . to ascertain the extent of the power, it becomes necessary to settle the meaning of the word. The counsel for the appellee would limit it to traffic, to buying and selling, or the interchange of commodities . . . but it is something more: it is intercourse . . . between nations, and parts of nations, in all its branches, and is regulated by prescribing rules for carrying on that intercourse. [At 189-190.]
. . . .
"To what commerce does this power extend? The constitution informs us, to commerce 'with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.'
"It has, we believe, been universally admitted, that these words comprehend every species of commercial intercourse . . . . No sort of trade can be carried on . . . to which this power does not extend. [At 193-194.]
. . . .
"The subject to which the power is next applied, is to commerce 'among the several States.' The word 'among' means intermingled . . . .
. . . .
". . . It may very properly be restricted to that commerce which concerns more States than one. . . . The genius and character of the whole government seem to be, that its action is to be applied to all the . . . internal concerns [of the Nation] which affect the States generally; but not to those which are completely within a particular State, which do not affect other States, and with which it is not necessary to interfere, for the purpose of executing some of the general powers of the government. [At 194-195.]
. . . .
"We are now arrived at the inquiry -- What is this power?
"It is the power to regulate; that is, to prescribe the rule by which commerce is to be governed. This power, like all others vested in Congress, is complete in itself, may be exercised to its utmost extent, and acknowledges no limitations, other than are prescribed in the constitution. . . . If, as has always been understood, the sovereignty of Congress . . . is plenary as to those objects [specified in the Constitution], the power over commerce . . . is vested in Congress as absolutely as it would be in a single government, having in its constitution the same restrictions on the exercise of the power as are found in the constitution of the United States. The wisdom and the discretion of Congress, their identity with the people, and the influence which their constituents possess at elections, are, in this, as in many other instances, as that, for example, of declaring war, the sole restraints on which they have relied, to secure them from its abuse. They are the restraints on which the people must often rely solely, in all representative governments. [At 196-197.]"
In short, the determinative test of the exercise of power
by the Congress under the Commerce Clause is simply whether the activity sought
to be regulated is "commerce which concerns more States than one" and has a real
and substantial relation to the national interest. Let us now turn to this facet
of the problem.
That the "intercourse" of which the Chief Justice spoke
included the movement of persons through more States than one was settled as
early as 1849, in the Passenger Cases, 7 How. 283, where Mr. Justice McLean
stated: "That the transportation of passengers is a part of commerce is not now
an open question." At 401. Again in 1913 Mr. Justice McKenna, speaking for the
Court, said: "Commerce among the States, we have said, consists of intercourse
and traffic between their citizens, and includes the transportation of persons
and property." Hoke v. United States, 227 U.S. 308, 320. And only four years
later in 1917 in Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470, Mr. Justice Day held
for the Court:
"The transportation of passengers in interstate commerce, it has long been settled, is within the regulatory power of Congress, under the commerce clause of the Constitution, and the authority of Congress to keep the channels of interstate commerce free from immoral and injurious uses has been frequently sustained, and is no longer open to question." At 491.
Nor does it make any difference whether the transportation
is commercial in character. Id., at 484-486. In Morgan v. Virginia, 328 U.S. 373
(1946), Mr. Justice Reed observed as to the modern movement of persons among the
"The recent changes in transportation brought about by the coming of automobiles [do] not seem of great significance in the problem. People of all races travel today more extensively than in 1878 when this Court first passed upon state regulation of racial segregation in commerce. [It but] emphasizes the soundness of this Court's early conclusion in Hall v. DeCuir, 95 U.S. 485." At 383.
The same interest in protecting interstate commerce which
led Congress to deal with segregation in interstate carriers and the white-slave
traffic has prompted it to extend the exercise of its power to gambling, Lottery
Case, 188 U.S. 321 (1903); to criminal enterprises, Brooks v. United States, 267
U.S. 432 (1925); to deceptive practices in the sale of products, Federal Trade
Comm'n v. Mandel Bros., Inc., 359 U.S. 385 (1959); to fraudulent security
transactions, Securities & Exchange Comm'n v. Ralston Purina Co., 346 U.S. 119
(1953); to misbranding of drugs, Weeks v. United States, 245 U.S. 618 (1918); to
wages and hours, United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100 (1941); to members of
labor unions, Labor Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1 (1937); to
crop control, Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942); to discrimination against
shippers, United States v. Baltimore & Ohio R. Co., 333 U.S. 169 (1948); to the
protection of small business from injurious price cutting, Moore v. Mead's Fine
Bread Co., 348 U.S. 115 (1954); to resale price maintenance, Hudson
Distributors, Inc. v. Eli Lilly & Co., 377 U.S. 386 (1964), Schwegmann v.
Calvert Distillers Corp., 341 U.S. 384 (1951); to professional football,
Radovich v. National Football League, 352 U.S. 445 (1957); and to racial
discrimination by owners and managers of terminal restaurants, Boynton v.
Virginia, 364 U.S. 454 (1960).
That Congress was legislating against moral wrongs in many
of these areas rendered its enactments no less valid. In framing Title II of
this Act Congress was also dealing with what it considered a moral problem. But
that fact does not detract from the overwhelming evidence of the disruptive
effect that racial discrimination has had on commercial intercourse. It was this
burden which empowered Congress to enact appropriate legislation, and, given
this basis for the exercise of its power, Congress was not restricted by the
fact that the particular obstruction to interstate commerce with which it was
dealing was also deemed a moral and social wrong.
It is said that the operation of the motel here is of a
purely local character. But, assuming this to be true, "if it is interstate
commerce that feels the pinch, it does not matter how local the operation which
applies the squeeze." United States v. Women's Sportswear Mfrs. Assn., 336 U.S.
460, 464 (1949). See Labor Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., supra. As
Chief Justice Stone put it in United States v. Darby, supra:
"The power of Congress over interstate commerce is not confined to the regulation of commerce among the states. It extends to those activities intrastate which so affect interstate commerce or the exercise of the power of Congress over it as to make regulation of them appropriate means to the attainment of a legitimate end, the exercise of the granted power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. See McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 421." At 118.
Thus the power of Congress to promote interstate commerce
also includes the power to regulate the local incidents thereof, including local
activities in both the States of origin and destination, which might have a
substantial and harmful effect upon that commerce. One need only examine the
evidence which we have discussed above to see that Congress may -- as it has --
prohibit racial discrimination by motels serving travelers, however "local"
their operations may appear.
Nor does the Act deprive appellant of liberty or property
under the Fifth Amendment. The commerce power invoked here by the Congress is a
specific and plenary one authorized by the Constitution itself. The only
questions are: (1) whether Congress had a rational basis for finding that racial
discrimination by motels affected commerce, and (2) if it had such a basis,
whether the means it selected to eliminate that evil are reasonable and
appropriate. If they are, appellant has no "right" to select its guests as it
sees fit, free from governmental regulation.
There is nothing novel about such legislation. Thirty-two
States 7 now have it on
their books either by statute or executive order and many cities provide such
regulation. Some of these Acts go back fourscore years. It has been repeatedly
held by this Court that such laws do not violate the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment. Perhaps the first such holding was in the Civil Rights
Cases themselves, where Mr. Justice Bradley for the Court inferentially found
that innkeepers, "by the laws of all the States, so far as we are aware, are
bound, to the extent of their facilities, to furnish proper accommodation to all
unobjectionable persons who in good faith apply for them." At 25.
As we have pointed out, 32 States now have such provisions
and no case has been cited to us where the attack on a state statute has been
successful, either in federal or state courts. Indeed, in some cases the Due
Process and Equal Protection Clause objections have been specifically discarded
in this Court. Bob-Lo Excursion Co. v. Michigan, 333 U.S. 28, 34, n. 12 (1948).
As a result the constitutionality of such state statutes stands unquestioned.
"The authority of the Federal Government over interstate commerce does not
differ," it was held in United States v. Rock Royal Co-op., Inc., 307 U.S. 533
(1939), "in extent or character from that retained by the states over intrastate
commerce." At 569-570. See also Bowles v. Willingham, 321 U.S. 503 (1944).
It is doubtful if in the long run appellant will suffer
economic loss as a result of the Act. Experience is to the contrary where
discrimination is completely obliterated as to all public accommodations. But
whether this be true or not is of no consequence since this Court has
specifically held that the fact that a "member of the class which is regulated
may suffer economic losses not shared by others . . . has never been a barrier"
to such legislation. Bowles v. Willingham, supra, at 518. Likewise in a long
line of cases this Court has rejected the claim that the prohibition of racial
discrimination in public accommodations interferes with personal liberty. See
District of Columbia v. John R. Thompson Co., 346 U.S. 100 (1953), and cases
there cited, where we concluded that Congress had delegated law-making power to
the District of Columbia "as broad as the police power of a state" which
included the power to adopt "a law prohibiting discriminations against Negroes
by the owners and managers of restaurants in the District of Columbia." At 110.
Neither do we find any merit in the claim that the Act is a taking of property
without just compensation. The cases are to the contrary. See Legal Tender
Cases, 12 Wall. 457, 551 (1870); Omnia Commercial Co. v. United States, 261 U.S.
502 (1923); United States v. Central Eureka Mining Co., 357 U.S. 155 (1958).
We find no merit in the remainder of appellant's
contentions, including that of "involuntary servitude." As we have seen, 32
States prohibit racial discrimination in public accommodations. These laws but
codify the common-law innkeeper rule which long predated the Thirteenth
Amendment. It is difficult to believe that the Amendment was intended to
abrogate this principle. Indeed, the opinion of the Court in the Civil Rights
Cases is to the contrary as we have seen, it having noted with approval the laws
of "all the States" prohibiting discrimination. We could not say that the
requirements of the Act in this regard are in any way "akin to African slavery."
Butler v. Perry, 240 U.S. 328, 332 (1916).
We, therefore, conclude that the action of the Congress in
the adoption of the Act as applied here to a motel which concededly serves
interstate travelers is within the power granted it by the Commerce Clause of
the Constitution, as interpreted by this Court for 140 years. It may be argued
that Congress could have pursued other methods to eliminate the obstructions it
found in interstate commerce caused by racial discrimination. But this is a
matter of policy that rests entirely with the Congress not with the courts. How
obstructions in commerce may be removed -- what means are to be employed -- is
within the sound and exclusive discretion of the Congress. It is subject only to
one caveat -- that the means chosen by it must be reasonably adapted to the end
permitted by the Constitution. We cannot say that its choice here was not so
adapted. The Constitution requires no more.