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Tillman v. Wheaton-Haven Recreation Assn., Inc., 410 U.S. 431 (1973)

Tillman v. Wheaton-Haven Recreation Assn., Inc.

No. 71-1136

Argued November 15, 1972

Decided February 27, 1973

410 U.S. 431


Respondent association (Wheaton-Haven) operates a community swimming pool, use of which is limited to white members and their white guests. Under Wheaton-Haven's bylaws, a person residing within a geographic preference area, unlike one living outside that area, needs no endorsement for membership from a current member; receives priority (if the membership is full) over all but those who have first options; and (if an owner-member selling his house) can confer a first option for membership on his vendee. Petitioners -- the Presses, a Negro couple who bought a home in the preference area from a nonmember, and were denied membership for racial reasons; a white couple, members of Wheaton-Haven, whose Negro guest was refused admission to the pool for racial reasons; and the guest -- brought suit for declaratory and injunctive relief under the Civil Rights Acts of 1866, 1870, and 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1982, 1981, and 2000a et seq. The District Court granted respondents' motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, because Wheaton-Haven membership rights could not be leased or transferred, the case was distinguishable from Sullivan v. Little Hunting Park, Inc., 396 U. S. 229, making § 1982 unavailable to the Presses, and agreeing with the District Court that Wheaton-Haven was a private club within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 2000a(e), and therefore implied an exception to § 1982.


1. Respondents' racially discriminatory membership policy violates 42 U.S.C. § 1982. The preferences for membership in Wheaton-Haven gave valuable property rights to white residents in the preference area that were not available to the Presses, and this case is therefore not significantly distinguishable from Sullivan, supra. Pp. 410 U. S. 435-437.

2. Wheaton-Haven is not a private club within the meaning of § 2000a(e), since membership, until the association reaches its full complement, "is open to every white person within the geographic area, there being no selective element other than

Page 410 U. S. 432

race," Sullivan, supra, at 396 U. S. 236. Wheaton-Haven is thus not even arguably exempt by virtue of § 2000a(e) from § 1982 or § 1981. Pp. 410 U. S. 438-440.

451 F.2d 1211, reversed and remanded.

BLACKMUN J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

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