City of Dallas v. Stanglin
For the express purpose of providing a place where teenagers can socialize with each other but not be subject to the potentially detrimental influences of older teenagers and adults, a Dallas ordinance authorizes the licensing of "Class E" dance halls, restricting admission thereto to persons between the ages of 14 and 18 and limiting their hours of operation. Respondent, whose roller-skating rink and Class E dance hall share a divided floorspace, filed suit in state court to enjoin the ordinance's age and hour restrictions, contending, inter alia, that they violated the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The trial court upheld the ordinance, but the Texas Court of Appeals struck down the ordinance's age restriction, holding that it violated the First Amendment associational rights of minors.
1. The ordinance does not infringe on the First Amendment right of association. Respondent's patrons, who may number as many as 1,000 per night, are not engaged in a form of "intimate association." Nor do the opportunities of adults and minors to dance with one another, which might be described as "associational" in common parlance, involve the sort of "expressive association" that the First Amendment has been held to protect. The teenagers who congregate are not members of any organized association, and most are strangers to one another. The dance hall admits all who pay the admission fee, and there is no suggestion that the patrons take positions on public questions or perform other similar activities. Moreover, the Constitution does not recognize a generalized right of "social association" that includes chance encounters in dance halls. Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 483, 85 S.Ct. 1678, 1681, 14 L.Ed.2d 510, distinguished. Pp. 23-25.
2. The ordinance does not violate the Equal Prot ction Clause because there is a rational relationship between the age restriction for Class E dance halls and the city's interest in promoting the welfare of teenagers. Respondent's claims-that the ordinance does not meet the city's objectives because adults and teenagers can still associate with one another in places such as his skating rink and that there are other, less intrusive, alternatives to achieve the objectives-misapprehend the nature of rational-basis scrutiny, the most relaxed and tolerant form of judicial scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause. Under this standard, a classification that has some reasonable basis does not offend the Constitution because it is imperfect. Here, the city could reasonably conclude that teenagers might be more susceptible to corrupting influences if permitted to frequent dance halls with older persons or that limiting dance-hall contacts between adults and teenagers would make less likely illicit or undesirable juvenile involvement with alcohol, illegal drugs, or promiscuous sex. While the city permits teenagers and adults to rollerskate together, skating involves less physical contact than dancing, a differentiation that need not be striking to survive rational-basis scrutiny. Pp. 25-28.
744 S.W.2d 165 (Tex.App.1987), reversed and remanded.
REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, O'CONNOR, SCALIA, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which BLACKMUN, J., joined, post, p. 28.
Craig Lee Hopkins, Dallas, Tex., for petitioners.
Daniel J. Sheehan, Jr., Dallas, Tex., for respondent.
Chief Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.