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1st Amendment and Free Speech/Basing Charges on Political Afiliation

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Question
There's a smooth business in Vernal, Utah that charges $4.95 for a fruit smoothie. If the customer is a "liberal" the owner adds a "$1 surcharge", which he says he will donate to "conservative causes".  

When a customer orders, the owner points to the sign that says "conservatives, $4.95, liberals $5.95" and asks "which pricing are we using today?"

Certainly people can lie.  Apparently 3 people have paid the $1 "surcharge.  

I am surprised this is legal.   Is it?  Can he enforce the surcharge if someone says "I'm liberal but I'm not paying more than anyone else"?

Answer
Hello,

Without knowing the specifics of Utah law, I cannot render an unqualified legal opinion.  But generally speaking private business owners can discriminate on price based on a whole range of factors, except a few specifically banned (such as race, sex, religion etc.).  Most States do not ban discrimination based on political views.  Therefore, I don't see any legal problem with such a policy.  It may be a stupid one, but it seems legal.

- Mike  

1st Amendment and Free Speech

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Michael Troy

Expertise

I will answer general questions regarding freedom of speech, petition, or religion. My specialty is in cases involving public employment or education, as well as issues related to campaign finance. I can`t give specific legal advice involving specific cases you might have.

Experience

As an attorney for the Center for Individual Rights, I worked on a number of free speech cases, including Rosenberger v. Univ. of Virginia, in which the Supreme Court upheld my clients' right to run a student newspaper without discrimination because of its religious content. I also worked on White v. Julian, which protected the right of people to protest against a homeless shelter in their neighborhood.

I also worked for the Federal Election Commission on several cases regarding the right to participate in the election process and engage in campaign related speech.

Organizations
Former Attorney for Center for Individual Rights.

Publications
Washington Post
Washington Times

Education/Credentials
J.D. from Univ. of Michigan Law School

Awards and Honors
Truman Scholar

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