Viewpoint discrimination is discrimination against an individual or group solely on the basis of their expressed ideology or point-of-view. Viewpoint discrimination is unconstitutional under the First Amendment when done by local, state, or federal governments in the United States.
Viewpoint discrimination occurs when a government denies rights that would otherwise be granted based on ideology. As an example, when Boston, Chicago and other liberal cities threatened to not issue business permits to the restaurant chain Chick-fil-A due to CEO Dan Cathy's principled support for traditional Biblical marriage. Since the proposed ban was not based on any actual ant-gay discrimination or criminal wrongdoing, it was considered a case of viewpoint discrimination.
In Sorrell v. IMS Health Inc., 131 S. Ct. 2653, 2672 (2011), a 6-3 United States Supreme Court invalidated a Vermont law by finding that it constituted unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination:
- When it enacted § 4631(d), the Vermont Legislature found that the “marketplace for ideas on medicine safety and effectiveness is frequently one-sided in that brand-name companies invest in expensive pharmaceutical marketing campaigns to doctors.” 2007 Vt. Laws No. 80, § 1(4). “The goals of marketing programs,” the legislature said, “are often in conflict with the goals of the state.” § 1(3). The text of § 4631(d), associated legislative findings, and the record developed in the District Court establish that Vermont enacted its law for this end. The State has burdened a form of protected expression that it found too persuasive. At the same time, the State has left unburdened those speakers whose messages are in accord with its own views. This the State cannot do.