Justice Souter, delivered the opinion of the Court.
The issue in this case is whether Massachusetts may require private citizens who organize a parade to include among the marchers a group imparting a message the organizers do not wish to convey. We hold that such a mandate violates the First Amendment.
March 17 is set aside for two celebrations in South Boston. As early as 1737, some people in Boston observed the feast of the apostle to Ireland, and since 1776 the day has marked the evacuation of royal troops and Loyalists from the city, prompted by the guns captured at Ticonderoga and set up on Dorchester Heights under General Washington's command. Washington himself reportedly drew on the earlier tradition in choosing "St. Patrick" as the response to "Boston," the password used in the colonial lines on evacuation day. See J. Crimmins, St. Patrick's Day: Its Celebration in New York and other American Places, 1737-1845, pp. 15, 19 (1902); see generally 1 H. Commager & R. Morris, The Spirit of `Seventy Six, pp. 138-183 (1958); The American Book of Days 262-265 (J. Hatch ed., 3d ed. 1978). Although the General Court of Massachusetts did not officially designate March 17 as Evacuation Day until 1938, see Mass. Gen. Laws § 6:12K (1992), the City Council of Boston had previously sponsored public celebrations of Evacuation Day, including notable commemorations on the centennial in 1876, and on the 125th anniversary in 1901, with its parade, salute, concert, and fireworks display. See Celebration of the Centennial Anniversary of the Evacuation of Boston by the British Army (G. Ellis ed. 1876); Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston v. City of Boston et al., Civ. Action No. 92-1518A (Super. Ct., Mass., Dec. 15, 1993), reprinted in App. to Pet. for Cert. B1, B8-B9.
The tradition of formal sponsorship by the city came to an end in 1947, however, when Mayor James Michael Curley himself granted authority to organize and conduct the St. Patrick's Day-Evacuation Day Parade to the petitioner South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, an unincorporated association of individuals elected from various South Boston veterans groups. Every year since that time, the Council has applied for and received a permit for the parade, which at times has included as many as 20,000 marchers and drawn
In 1992, a number of gay, lesbian, and bisexual descendants of the Irish immigrants joined together with other supporters to form the respondent organization, GLIB, to march in the parade as a way to express pride in their Irish heritage as openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals, to demonstrate that there are such men and women among those so descended, and to express their solidarity with like individuals who sought to march in New York's St. Patrick's Day Parade. Id., at B3; App. 51. Although the Council denied GLIB's application to take part in the 1992 parade, GLIB obtained a state-court order to include its contingent, which marched "uneventfully" among that year's 10,000 participants and 750,000 spectators. App. to Pet. for Cert. B3, and n. 4.
In 1993, after the Council had again refused to admit GLIB to the upcoming parade, the organization and some of its members filed this suit against the Council, the individual petitioner John J. "Wacko" Hurley, and the city of Boston, alleging violations of the State and Federal Constitutions and of the state public accommodations law, which prohibits "any distinction, discrimination or restriction on account of. . . sexual orientation . . . relative to the admission of any person to, or treatment in any place of public accommodation, resort or amusement." Mass. Gen. Laws § 272:98 (1992). After finding that "[f]or at least the past 47 years, the Parade has traveled the same basic route along the public streets of South Boston, providing entertainment, amusement, and recreation to participants and spectators alike," App. to Pet. for Cert. B5—B6, the state trial court ruled that the parade fell within the statutory definition of a public accommodation, which includes "any place . . . which is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public
The court rejected the Council's assertion that the exclusion of "groups with sexual themes merely formalized [the fact] that the Parade expresses traditional religious and social values," id., at B3, and found the Council's "final position [to be] that GLIB would be excluded because of its values and its message, i. e., its members' sexual orientation," id., at B4, n. 5, citing Tr. of Closing Arg. 43, 51-52 (Nov. 23, 1993). This position, in the court's view, was not only violative of the public accommodations law but "paradoxical" as well, since "a proper celebration of St. Patrick's and Evacuation Day requires diversity and inclusiveness." App. to Pet. for
The court held that because the statute did not mandate inclusion of GLIB but only prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation, any infringement on the Council's right to expressive association was only "incidental" and "no greater than necessary to accomplish the statute's legitimate purpose" of eradicating discrimination. Id., at B25, citing Roberts v. United States Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609, 628-629 (1984). Accordingly, it ruled that "GLIB is entitled to participate in the Parade on the same terms and conditions as other participants." App. to Pet. for Cert. B27.
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts affirmed, seeing nothing clearly erroneous in the trial judge's findings
Justice Nolan dissented. In his view, the Council "does not need a narrow or distinct theme or message in its parade for it to be protected under the First Amendment." Id., at 256, 636 N. E. 2d, at 1303. First, he wrote, even if the parade had no message at all, GLIB's particular message could not be forced upon it. Id., at 257, 636 N. E. 2d, at 1303, citing Wooley v. Maynard, 430 U.S. 705, 717 (1977) (state requirement to display "Live Free or Die" on license plates violates First Amendment). Second, according to Justice Nolan, the trial judge clearly erred in finding the parade devoid of expressive purpose. 418 Mass., at 257, 636 N. E. 2d, at 1303. He would have held that the Council, like any expressive association, cannot be barred from excluding applicants who do not share the views the Council wishes to advance. Id., at 257-259, 636 N. E. 2d, at 1303-1304, citing Roberts, supra. Under either a pure speech or associational theory, the State's purpose of eliminating discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, according to the dissent, could be achieved by more narrowly drawn means, such as ordering admission of individuals regardless of sexual preference, without taking the further step of prohibiting the Council from editing the views expressed in their parade. 418 Mass., at 256, 258, 636 N. E. 2d, at 1302, 1304. In Justice Nolan's opinion, because GLIB's message was separable from the status of its members, such a narrower order would accommodate the State's interest without the likelihood of infringing on the Council's First Amendment rights. Finally, he found clear error in the trial judge's equation of exclusion on the basis of GLIB's message with exclusion on the basis of its members' sexual orientation. To the dissent this appeared false in the light of "overwhelming evidence" that the Council objected to GLIB on account of its message and a dearth of testimony or documentation indicating that sexual orientation was the bar to admission. Id., at 260, 636
We granted certiorari to determine whether the requirement to admit a parade contingent expressing a message not of the private organizers' own choosing violates the First Amendment. 513 U.S. 1071 (1995). We hold that it does and reverse.
Given the scope of the issues as originally joined in this case, it is worth noting some that have fallen aside in the course of the litigation, before reaching us. Although the Council presents us with a First Amendment claim, respondents do not. Neither do they press a claim that the Council's action has denied them equal protection of the laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. While the guarantees of free speech and equal protection guard only against encroachment by the government and "erec[t] no shield against merely private conduct," Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1, 13 (1948); see Hudgens v. NLRB, 424 U.S. 507, 513 (1976), respondents originally argued that the Council's conduct was not purely private, but had the character of state action. The trial court's review of the city's involvement led it to find otherwise, however, and although the Supreme Judicial Court did not squarely address the issue, it appears to have affirmed the trial court's decision on that point as well as the others. In any event, respondents have not brought that question up either in a cross-petition for certiorari or in their briefs filed in this Court. When asked at oral argument whether they challenged the conclusion by the Massachusetts' courts that no state action is involved in the parade, respondents' counsel answered that they "do not press that issue here." Tr. of Oral Arg. 22. In this Court, then, their claim for inclusion in the parade rests solely on the Massachusetts public accommodations law.
If there were no reason for a group of people to march from here to there except to reach a destination, they could make the trip without expressing any message beyond the fact of the march itself. Some people might call such a procession a parade, but it would not be much of one. Real "[p]arades are public dramas of social relations, and in them performers define who can be a social actor and what subjects and ideas are available for communication and consideration." S. Davis, Parades and Power: Street Theatre in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia 6 (1986). Hence, we use the word "parade" to indicate marchers who are making some sort of collective point, not just to each other but to bystanders along the way. Indeed, a parade's dependence on watchers is so extreme that nowadays, as with Bishop Berkeley's celebrated tree, "if a parade or demonstration receives no media coverage, it may as well not have happened." Id., at 171. Parades are thus a form of expression, not just motion, and the inherent expressiveness of marching to make a point explains our cases involving protest marches. In Gregory v. Chicago, 394 U.S. 111, 112 (1969), for example, petitioners had taken part in a procession to express their grievances to the city government, and we held that such a "march, if peaceful and orderly, falls well within the sphere of conduct protected by the First Amendment." Similarly, in Edwards v. South Carolina, supra, at 235, where petitioners had joined in a march of protest and pride, carrying placards and singing The Star Spangled Banner, we held that the activities "reflect an exercise of these basic constitutional
The protected expression that inheres in a parade is not limited to its banners and songs, however, for the Constitution looks beyond written or spoken words as mediums of expression. Noting that "[s]ymbolism is a primitive but effective way of communicating ideas," West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 632 (1943), our cases have recognized that the First Amendment shields such acts as saluting a flag (and refusing to do so), id., at 632, 642, wearing an armband to protest a war, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., 393 U.S. 503, 505-506 (1969), displaying a red flag, Stromberg v. California, 283 U.S. 359, 369 (1931), and even "[m]arching, walking or parading" in uniforms displaying the swastika, National Socialist Party of America v. Skokie, 432 U.S. 43 (1977). As some of these examples show, a narrow, succinctly articulable message is not a condition of constitutional protection, which if confined to expressions conveying a "particularized message," cf. Spence v. Washington, 418 U.S. 405, 411 (1974) (per curiam), would never reach the unquestionably shielded painting of Jackson Pollock, music of Arnold Schoenberg, or Jabberwocky verse of Lewis Carroll.
Not many marches, then, are beyond the realm of expressive parades, and the South Boston celebration is not one of them. Spectators line the streets; people march in costumes and uniforms, carrying flags and banners with all sorts of messages (e. g., "England get out of Ireland," "Say no to drugs"); marching bands and pipers play; floats are pulled along; and the whole show is broadcast over Boston television. See Record, Exh. 84 (video). To be sure, we agree with the state courts that in spite of excluding some applicants, the Council is rather lenient in admitting participants. But a private speaker does not forfeit constitutional protection simply by combining multifarious voices, or by failing to edit their themes to isolate an exact message as the exclusive
Respondents' participation as a unit in the parade was equally expressive. GLIB was formed for the very purpose of marching in it,as the trial court found, in order to celebrate its members' identity as openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual descendants of the Irish immigrants, to show that there are such individuals in the community, and to support the like men and women who sought to march in the New York parade. App. to Pet. for Cert. B3. The organization distributed a fact sheet describing the members' intentions, App. A51, and the record otherwise corroborates the expressive nature of GLIB's participation, see Record, Exh. 84 (video); App. A67 (photograph). In 1993, members of GLIB marched behind a shamrock-strewn banner with the simple inscription "Irish American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston." GLIB understandably seeks to communicate its ideas as part of the existing parade, rather than staging one of its own.
The Massachusetts public accommodations law under which respondents brought suit has a venerable history. At common law, innkeepers, smiths, and others who "made profession of a public employment," were prohibited from refusing, without good reason, to serve a customer. Lane v. Cotton, 12 Mod. 472, 484-485, 88 Eng. Rep. 1458, 1464-1465 (K. B. 1701) (Holt, C. J.); see Bell v. Maryland, 378 U.S. 226, 298, n. 17 (1964) (Goldberg, J., concurring); Lombard v. Louisiana, 373 U.S. 267, 277 (1963) (Douglas, J., concurring). As one of the 19th-century English judges put it, the rule was that "[t]he innkeeper is not to select his guests[;] [h]e has no right to say to one, you shall come into my inn, and to another you shall not, as every one coming and conducting himself in a proper manner has a right to be received; and for this purpose innkeepers are a sort of public servants." Rex v. Ivens, 7 Car. & P. 213, 219, 173 Eng. Rep. 94, 96 (N. P. 1835); M. Konvitz & T. Leskes, A Century of Civil Rights 160 (1961).
After the Civil War, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was the first State to codify this principle to ensure access to public accommodations regardless of race. See Act Forbidding Unjust Discrimination on Account of Color or Race, 1865 Mass. Acts, ch. 277 (May 16, 1865); Konvitz & Leskes, supra, at 155-156; Lerman & Sanderson, Discrimination in Access to Public Places: A Survey of State and Federal Public Accommodations Laws, 7 N. Y. U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 215, 238 (1978); Fox, Discrimination and Antidiscrimination in Massachusetts Law, 44 B. U. L. Rev. 30, 58 (1964). In prohibiting discrimination "in any licensed inn, in any public place of amusement, public conveyance or public meeting," 1865 Mass. Acts, ch. 277, § 1, the original statute already expanded upon the common law, which had not conferred any right of access to places of public amusement, Lerman & Sanderson, supra, at 248. As with many public accommodations statutes across the Nation, the legislature continued to
In the case before us, however, the Massachusetts law has been applied in a peculiar way. Its enforcement does not address any dispute about the participation of openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual individuals in various units admitted to the parade. Petitioners disclaim any intent to exclude homosexuals as such, and no individual member of GLIB claims to have been excluded from parading as a member of any group that the Council has approved to march. Instead, the disagreement goes to the admission of GLIB as its own parade unit carrying its own banner. See App. to Pet. for Cert. B26—B27, and n. 28. Since every participating unit affects the message conveyed by the private organizers, the state courts' application of the statute produced an order essentially requiring petitioners to alter the expressive content
"Since all speech inherently involves choices of what to say and what to leave unsaid," Pacific Gas & Electric Co. v. Public Utilities Comm'n of Cal., 475 U.S. 1, 11 (1986) (plurality opinion) (emphasis in original), one important manifestation of the principle of free speech is that one who chooses to speak may also decide "what not to say," id., at 16. Although the State may at times "prescribe what shall be orthodox in commercial advertising" by requiring the dissemination of "purely factual and uncontroversial information," Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel of Supreme Court of Ohio, 471 U.S. 626, 651 (1985); see Pittsburgh Press Co. v. Pittsburgh Comm'n on Human Relations, 413 U.S. 376, 386-387 (1973), outside that context it may not compel affirmance of a belief with which the speaker disagrees, see Barnette, 319 U. S., at 642. Indeed this general rule, that the speaker has the right to tailor the speech, applies not only to expressions of value, opinion, or endorsement, but equally to statements of fact the speaker would rather avoid, McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm'n, 514 U.S. 334, 341-342 (1995); Riley v. National Federation of Blind of N. C., Inc.,
Petitioners' claim to the benefit of this principle of autonomy to control one's own speech is as sound as the South Boston parade is expressive. Rather like a composer, the Council selects the expressive units of the parade from potential participants, and though the score may not produce a particularized message, each contingent's expression in the Council's eyes comports with what merits celebration on that day. Even if this view gives the Council credit for a more considered judgment than it actively made, the Council clearly decided to exclude a message it did not like from the communication it chose to make, and that is enough to invoke its right as a private speaker to shape its expression by speaking on one subject while remaining silent on another. The message it disfavored is not difficult to identify. Although GLIB's point (like the Council's) is not wholly articulate, a contingent marching behind the organization's banner would at least bear witness to the fact that some Irish are gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and the presence of the organized marchers would suggest their view that people of their sexual orientations have as much claim to unqualified social acceptance as heterosexuals and indeed as members of parade units organized around other identifying characteristics. The parade's organizers may not believe these facts about Irish sexuality to be so, or they may object to unqualified
Respondents argue that any tension between this rule and the Massachusetts law falls short of unconstitutionality, citing the most recent of our cases on the general subject of compelled access for expressive purposes, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. v. FCC, 512 U.S. 622 (1994). There we reviewed regulations requiring cable operators to set aside channels for designated broadcast signals, and applied only intermediate scrutiny. Id., at 662. Respondents contend on this authority that admission of GLIB to the parade would not threaten the core principle of speaker's autonomy because the Council, like a cable operator, is merely "a conduit" for the speech of participants in the parade "rather than itself a speaker." Brief for Respondents 21. But this metaphor is not apt here, because GLIB's participation would likely be perceived as having resulted from the Council's customary determination about a unit admitted to the parade, that its message was worthy of presentation and quite possibly of support as well. A newspaper, similarly, "is more than a passive receptacle or conduit for news, comment, and advertising," and we have held that "[t]he choice of material. . . and the decisions made as to limitations on the size and content . . . and treatment of public issues . . .—whether fair or unfair—constitute the exercise of editorial control and judgment" upon which the State can not intrude. Tornillo, 418 U. S., at 258. Indeed, in Pacific Gas & Electric, we invalidated coerced access to the envelope of a private utility's bill and newsletter because the utility "may be forced either to appear to agree with [the intruding leaflet] or to respond." 475 U. S., at 15 (plurality opinion) (citation omitted). The plurality made the further point that if "the government
In Turner Broadcasting, we found this problem absent in the cable context, because "[g]iven cable's long history of serving as a conduit for broadcast signals, there appears little risk that cable viewers would assume that the broadcast stations carried on a cable system convey ideas or messages endorsed by the cable operator." 512 U. S., at 655. We stressed that the viewer is frequently apprised of the identity of the broadcaster whose signal is being received via cable and that it is "common practice for broadcasters to disclaim any identity of viewpoint between the management and the speakers who use the broadcast facility." Ibid. (citation omitted); see id., at 684 (O'Connor, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (noting that Congress "might . . . conceivably obligate cable operators to act as common carriers for some of their channels").
Parades and demonstrations, in contrast, are not understood to be so neutrally presented or selectively viewed. Unlike the programming offered on various channels by a cable network, the parade does not consist of individual, unrelated segments that happen to be transmitted together for individual selection by members of the audience. Although each parade unit generally identifies itself, each is understood to contribute something to a common theme, and accordingly there is no customary practice whereby private sponsors disavow "any identity of viewpoint" between themselves and the selected participants. Practice follows practicability here, for such disclaimers would be quite curious in a moving
An additional distinction between Turner Broadcasting and this case points to the fundamental weakness of any attempt to justify the state-court order's limitation on the Council's autonomy as a speaker. A cable is not only a conduit for speech produced by others and selected by cable operators for transmission, but a franchised channel giving monopolistic opportunity to shut out some speakers. This power gives rise to the Government's interest in limiting monopolistic autonomy in order to allow for the survival of broadcasters who might otherwise be silenced and consequently destroyed. The Government's interest in Turner Broadcasting was not the alteration of speech, but the survival of speakers. In thus identifying an interest going beyond abridgment of speech itself, the defenders of the law at issue in Turner Broadcasting addressed the threshold requirement of any review under the Speech Clause, whatever the ultimate level of scrutiny, that a challenged restriction on speech serve a compelling, or at least important, governmental object, see, e. g., Pacific Gas & Electric , supra, at 19; Turner Broadcasting, supra, at 662; United States v. O'Brien, 391 U.S. 367, 377 (1968).
In this case, of course, there is no assertion comparable to the Turner Broadcasting claim that some speakers will be destroyed in the absence of the challenged law. True, the size and success of petitioners' parade makes it an enviable vehicle for the dissemination of GLIB's views, but that fact,
The statute, Mass. Gen. Laws § 272:98 (1992), is a piece of protective legislation that announces no purpose beyond the object both expressed and apparent in its provisions, which is to prevent any denial of access to (or discriminatory treatment in) public accommodations on proscribed grounds, including sexual orientation. On its face, the object of the law is to ensure by statute for gays and lesbians desiring to make use of public accommodations what the old common law promised to any member of the public wanting a meal at the inn, that accepting the usual terms of service, they will not be turned away merely on the proprietor's exercise of personal preference. When the law is applied to expressive activity in the way it was done here, its apparent object is simply to require speakers to modify the content of their expression to whatever extent beneficiaries of the law choose to alter it with messages of their own. But in the absence of some further, legitimate end, this object is merely to allow exactly what the general rule of speaker's autonomy forbids.
It might, of course, have been argued that a broader objective is apparent: that the ultimate point of forbidding acts of discrimination toward certain classes is to produce a society free of the corresponding biases. Requiring access to a
Far from supporting GLIB, then, Turner Broadcasting points to the reasons why the present application of the Massachusetts law can not be sustained. So do the two other principal authorities GLIB has cited. In PruneYard Shopping Center v. Robins, supra, to be sure, we
New York State Club Assn. is also instructive by the contrast it provides. There, we turned back a facial challenge to a state antidiscrimination statute on the assumption that the expressive associational character of a dining club with over 400 members could be sufficiently attenuated to permit application of the law even to such a private organization, but we also recognized that the State did not prohibit exclusion of those whose views were at odds with positions espoused by the general club memberships. 487 U. S., at 13; see also Roberts, 468 U. S., at 627. In other words, although the association provided public benefits to which a State could ensure equal access, it was also engaged in expressive activity; compelled access to the benefit, which was upheld, did not trespass on the organization's message itself. If we were to analyze this case strictly along those lines, GLIB would lose. Assuming the parade to be large enough and a source of benefits (apart from its expression) that would generally justify a mandated access provision, GLIB could
Our holding today rests not on any particular view about the Council's message but on the Nation's commitment to protect freedom of speech. Disapproval of a private speaker's statement does not legitimize use of the Commonwealth's power to compel the speaker to alter the message by including one more acceptable to others. Accordingly, the judgment of the Supreme Judicial Court is reversed, and the case is remanded for proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the AntiDefamation League et al. by Walter A. Smith, Jr., Thomas N. Bulleit, Jr., Steven M. Freeman, Arlene B. Mayerson, Antonia Hernandez, Alice E. Zaft, Judith L. Lichtman, and Donna R. Lenhoff; and for the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization et al. by R. Paul Wickes and Michael E. Deutsch.
Burt Neuborne, Steven R. Shapiro, and Marjorie Heins filed a brief for the American Civil Liberties Union as amicus curiae.