Amdt14.S1.9.6.2 Public Facilities

Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

In the aftermath of Brown v. Board of Education, the Court, in a lengthy series of per curiam opinions, established the invalidity of segregation in publicly provided or supported facilities and of required segregation in any facility or function. 1 A municipality could not operate a racially segregated park pursuant to a will that left the property for that purpose and that specified that only white people could use the park, 2 but it was permissible for the state courts to hold that the trust had failed and to imply a reverter to the decedent’s heirs. 3 A municipality under court order to desegregate its publicly owned swimming pools was held to be entitled to close the pools instead, so long as it entirely ceased operation of them. 4

Footnotes

  1.  E.g., Mayor & City Council of Baltimore v. Dawson, 350 U.S. 877 (1955) (public beaches and bathhouses); Holmes v. City of Atlanta, 350 U.S. 879 (1955) (municipal golf courses); Muir v. Louisville Park Theatrical Ass’n, 347 U.S. 971 (1954) (city lease of park facilities); New Orleans City Park Improvement Ass’n v. Detiege, 358 U.S. 54 (1958) (public parks and golf courses); State Athletic Comm’n v. Dorsey, 359 U.S. 533 (1959) (statute requiring segregated athletic contests); Turner v. City of Memphis, 369 U.S. 350 (1962) (administrative regulation requiring segregation in airport restaurant); Schiro v. Bynum, 375 U.S. 395 (1964) (ordinance requiring segregation in municipal auditorium).
  2.  Evans v. Newton, 382 U.S. 296 (1966). State courts had removed the city as trustee but the Court thought the city was still inextricably bound up in the operation and maintenance of the park. Justices Black, Harlan, and Stewart dissented because they thought the removal of the city as trustee removed the element of state action. Id. at 312, 315.
  3.  Evans v. Abney, 396 U.S. 435 (1970). The Court thought that in effectuating the testator’s intent in the fashion best permitted by the Fourteenth Amendment, the state courts engaged in no action violating the Equal Protection Clause. Justices Douglas and Brennan dissented. Id. at 448, 450.
  4.  Palmer v. Thompson, 403 U.S. 217 (1971). The Court found that there was no official encouragement of discrimination through the act of closing the pools and that inasmuch as both white and black citizens were deprived of the use of the pools there was no unlawful discrimination. Justices White, Brennan, and Marshall dissented, arguing that state action taken solely in opposition to desegregation was impermissible, both in defiance of the lower court order and because it penalized black citizens for asserting their rights. Id. at 240. Justice Douglas also dissented. Id. at 231.