Discriminatory action by the State is prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause of U.S. Const. amend. XIV, while private conduct, however discriminatory or wrongful, is not.
Appellee, guest, brought an action under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 for injunctive relief in the district court after the club discriminated and denied him service. He was brought into the club by a Caucasian member in good standing. It was the policy of the club to only serve white Caucasians and service to the guest was refused because he was a Negro. The guest claimed that because the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (Board) issued the club a license that authorized the sale of alcoholic beverages on its premises, the refusal of service to him was "state action" for the purposes of U.S. Const. amend. XIV. A three-judge district court upheld the guest's contention as it related to membership practices.
Whether the guest had legal standing to question the club’s membership policies and whether such policy gives rise to “state action.”
The guest does not have the legal standing to question the club’s membership policies, but has standing to question its guest-related policies which qualified as "state action."
The United States Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the guest who had never applied for, nor been denied, membership in the lodge had no standing to litigate a constitutional claim arising out of the club's membership practices. On the other hand, the Court found no error with respect to the lower court's reaching the guest's constitutional claim that the club's guest-service practices violated U.S. Const. amend. XIV, because the club's required compliance with the Board's regulation that required compliance with the club's own racially discriminatory provisions established "state action."