In the case of Katzenbach v. McClung (379 U.S. 294 (1964)), a restaurant just off an
interstate highway was accused of racial discrimination, (a violation of the 1964
Civil Rights Act). The restaurant argued
that the law shouldn't apply to them because they weren't engaged in interstate
commerce and were therefore beyond the reach of the Interstate Commerce
Clause. However, in a decision similar to Heart of Atlanta Motel
v. United States (379 U.S. 241 (1964)), the
US Supreme Court found that racial discrimination had a "restrictive
effect upon the interstate travel of Negroes." Therefore the law was
within Congress' authority under the Interstate Commerce Clause.
In addition, the Court felt
that the fact that the restaurant bought food that was bought from a guy
who got it from out of State gave them enough of a hook to give
In this case, most of the
sales were to locals. So can you say that the purchase of ingredients
from out of State makes this restaurant an agent of interstate commerce?
That's really pushing it.
This decision was a
repudiation of the theory of A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v United
States (295 U.S. 495 (1935)), which
said that interstate commerce stops at the processing plant.
In a concurring opinion, The
Act was justified based on the aggregate theory of commerce first talked
about in Wickard v. Filburn (317
U.S. 111 (1942)).
The Court stated that if
Congress felt it needed to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act as a part of the Interstate Commerce Clause,
then the Court should be maximally deferential to Congress, since they are
the ones who are supposed to determine what the limits of the Interstate
Commerce Clause is.
Under the 14th Amendment, it is still unclear that Congress can go
after individual acts of discrimination.
The language of the 14th
Amendment is "No State
shall...", so the Federal government can go after actions by the
States (such as segregated schools), but it is ambiguous as to whether
they can go after private, non-State actors (such as in this case). That's
why the Courts have used the Interstate Commerce Clause
instead of the 14th Amendment to
go after cases of private discrimination.
By comparison, the 13th
Amendment explicitly prohibits individuals
from owning slaves.