Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States

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In Brief

Congress is permitted to use the Commerce Clause to compel private businesses to abide by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


What Happened in Court

After Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the new legislation came under almost immediate challenge by a motel operator in Georgia.   As is relevant to this case, the Civil Rights Act banned race-based discrimination in public places. Heart of Atlanta Motel sought to challenge the law, arguing that it was an unconstitutional encroachment of the hotel’s right to choose the customers its customers and operate its business as it felt appropriate. The Supreme Court found against the motel operator and held that the Commerce Clause permits Congress to compel private businesses to refrain from engaging in race-based discrimination.

Related Statutes:

Civil Rights Act of 1964