Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States

U.S. Case Law

Legal Definition of Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States

379 U.S. 241 (1964), upheld the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, thus giving federal law enforcement officials the power to prevent racial discrimination in the use of public facilities. An Atlanta motel had refused to rent rooms to blacks, claiming that the establishment was privately owned and operated only within the state, thus making it immune from federal statute. The government sued on the ground that the motel received out-of-state patrons (it was located near two interstate highways) and thus came under both the public accommodations section of the Civil Rights Act and the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution. In a unanimous vote, the Court sustained the government's position and enjoined the motel from discriminating on the basis of race.

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