Bachelor Discrimination Lawsuit Update: Will First Amendment Defense Really Work?

June 11, 2012
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Entertainment attorney NYCThe producers of reality hit The Bachelor have offered an interesting defense to the discrimination lawsuit filed by two rejected contestants. They argue that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects their casting decisions. As our entertainment lawyers previously reported, the class-action lawsuit contends that racism is behind the shows’ failure to feature a Bachelor or a Bachelorette of color. The lawsuit is premised on violations of federal and state civil rights laws, and seeks injunctive relief to stop the exclusion of minorities from the leading roles in these shows as well as awards of punitive damages. In a motion regarding where the case should be litigated (Tennessee or California), ABC and the show’s producers tipped their hand regarding how they plan to defend the discrimination lawsuit. “Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is premised on the ground, among others, that television casting decisions are protected by the First Amendment,” the court documents state. In support of their argument, the defendants cite two previous entertainment law decisions. In Hurley v. Irish American Gay, the Supreme Court ruled that parade organizers were not obligated to include the participation of groups with divergent viewpoints. Even more to the point, in Ingels v. Westwood One Broadcasting Services, a California appellate court determined that a radio broadcaster’s right to free speech permitted him to reject a call-in participant who was considered too old. However, even in light of prior case law, the First Amendment defense is not a slam dunk. Earlier this spring, CNN unsuccessfully tried to use a free speech defense to defeat a lawsuit brought by a deaf group alleging that the media company has an “equal access” duty to caption videos featured on its website. Source: Hollywood Reporter