Moose Lodge No. 107 v. Irvis, 407 U.S. 163; 92 S. Ct. 1965; 32 L. Ed. 2d 627 (1972)

Facts—The Moose Lodge of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, refused service to Leroy Irvis, an African American who was present as the guest of a member. Irvis claimed that since the state liquor board had issued the lodge a private club liquor license, the refusal of service to him was a “state action” in violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Question—Does discrimination by a lodge constitute state action if the state had granted it a liquor license?


ReasonsC.J. Rehnquist (6–3). The Moose Lodge is a private club in the ordinary meaning of that term. It is not publicly funded. Only members and guests are permitted in any lodge of the order. The Court has never held that a private entity that discriminates involves the state because of some benefit or service furnished by the state. Since state-furnished services include all manner of things, such as police and fire protection, such a holding would utterly emasculate the distinction between private as distinguished from state conduct. The state must have significantly involved itself with invidious discriminations in order for the discriminatory action to fall within the ambit of the constitutional prohibition.

In dissent, J. Douglas and J. Marshall emphasized the scarcity of liquor licenses, therefore arguing that conferral of such a license converted the actions of the lodge into unconstitutional state action.

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