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Urging the Courts to Recognize State Responsibility for Discrimination by Private Parties Who Operate Public Facilities: Brentwood Academy v. Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association

NVRI submitted an amicus curiae in this recent case before the United States Supreme Court as part of its ongoing work to support a broad, realistic application of the 14th Amendment’s protection against invidious discrimination. As discussed more fully in our section on the Wealth Primary, the Supreme Court long ago decided that persons seeking relief from discrimination can invoke the protections of the 14th Amendment only when their case involves "state action", that is, only when the state is responsible for the discrimination in question. As our history demonstrates, there are many situations in which the state has delegated to private parties the authority to perform public functions, in which private parties assume control over public facilities, or in which private parties work in concert with state actors. Recognizing that, in these situations, the private actors take on the authority of the state, the Court deems such "private" activity "state action". In the context of voting rights, for example, the Supreme Court has recognized that, because elections serve a purely public function, even nominally "private" organizations like political parties must be deemed "state actors" and must be held accountable for discrimination under the 14th Amendment.

In the Brentwood Academy case, the Supreme Court ultimately decided that a non-profit association which controlled interscholastic sporting activities was "pervasively entwined" with the power of the state and thus its activities should be deemed "state action." NVRI submitted an amicus brief urging this result because of the potential importance of this case to NVRI’s ongoing voting rights litigation. In the brief, NVRI urged the Court to recognize that the Government must not be allowed to deny responsibility when it sanctions discrimination by private parties who operate public facilities or perform public functions.

NVRI's legal briefs in Brentwood Academy v. Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association

Challenging Barriers: