The Supreme Court on Tuesday let Utah suspend the private liquor licenses of Moose lodges that don't permit women to be members.
The court, without comment, turned away arguments by Moose lodges in Salt Lake City and Tooele that Utah's licensing policy violates their members' freedom of association.Moose International is a fraternal order for men over 21. Individual lodges establish and maintain social quarters where members can purchase food and drink for themselves and guests.
In Utah, public and private clubs that serve alcoholic beverages must be licensed by the state. So-called private liquor clubs are considered "entities regulated by the state" and subject to anti-discrimination laws.
The state's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in 1993 notified all private clubs that they could not base membership decisions on race, religion, national origin or gender.
In late 1993, the state agency held a license-revocation hearing for the two Moose lodges and 12 Elks lodges, and in early 1994 suspended those licenses indefinitely.
The Moose and Elks lodges appealed, and last October the Utah Supreme Court upheld the license suspensions.
The Moose lodges' "rights of association, which may well be protected in some areas, do not exist in the sphere wherein they make use of a liquor license," the state court said in its 3-2 decision.
The state court noted that a lodge was free to form a separate organization to hold the liquor license, and allow women to join it so they have free access to food and drink but not to other activities.
The ruling was considered irrelevant as it applied to the Elks lodges because the national Elks organization by that time had voted to make women eligible for full membership.
The two Moose lodges took their battle to the nation's highest court. Their appeal asked the justices "to determine the scope of the associational rights of members of distinctly private organizations."
Utah Attorney General Jan Graham urged the court to reject the lodges' appeal, saying, "The case has little significance outside of Utah in that the ruling is based upon liquor regulations and civil rights law unique to Utah."
The top court also let Utah require a Navajo living on the tribe's reservation to pay state income tax on his salary as a county commissioner.
The court, without comment Tuesday, turned down Mark Mary-boy's argument that he should be exempt from income taxes because he performs most of his work on the tribe's reservation. Maryboy lives on the Navajo Reservation in Montezuma Creek, Utah.
As an elected member of the San Juan County Commission, his duties include coordinating county programs on public safety and natural resources and meeting with Navajo government officials.
Maryboy's appeal said that aside from county commission meetings held in the county seat of Monticello off the Navajo reservation, he performs his commissioner's duties on the reservation.
The State Tax Commission decided Maryboy owed income taxes for 1988 through 1990. He appealed, and the Utah Supreme Court ruled that he must pay the taxes.
In other rulings Tuesday, the court:
- Agreed to decide whether states may bar candidates from running under the banner of more than one political party. The justices said they will review a federal appeals court ruling that struck down such Minnesota laws as violations of a minor party's freedom of association. But another federal court has allowed such a prohibition in a Wisconsin law.
- Agreed to decide whether state authorities must conduct hearings before removing prisoners from some release programs.
- Rejected five cigarette makers' attempts to withhold computer databases from Minnesota officials suing to recover state Medicaid costs for treating sick smokers.
- Set aside two Californians' drug convictions and gave appeals courts more power to reverse lower courts on the admissibility of evidence seized without warrants.