Section 201(a) of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the act) commands that all persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods and services of any place of public accommodation without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin; and § 201(b) defines establishments as places of public accommodation if their operations affect commerce or segregation by them is supported by state action. Sections 201(b)(2) and (c) place any restaurant principally engaged in selling food for consumption on the premises under the act if it serves or offers to serve interstate travelers or a substantial portion of the food which it serves has moved in commerce.
A restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama refused to serve Negroes. It sued to enjoin to city from implementing Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Commerce Clause) on them. The district court held that the Commerce Clause did not apply because there was no demonstrable connection between food purchased in interstate commerce and the conclusion of Congress that discrimination in the restaurant would affect commerce. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Does the Commerce Clause the Government the right to enforce specific provisions of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
The Court held that the overall purpose and operational plan of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a valid exercise of the power to regulate interstate commerce insofar as it requires hotels and motels to serve transients without regard to their race or color. Thus, 201(a)(b)(c) of the statute, forbidding racial discrimination by restaurants offering to serve interstate travelers or serving food a substantial portion of which has moved in interstate commerce, is a constitutional exercise of the commerce power.