State action doctrine

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Part of the series on
U.S. Discrimination Law
Standards of Review

Rational basis review
Intermediate scrutiny
Strict scrutiny

Other Legal Theories

Substantive due process
State action doctrine

Defining Moments in Law

The 14th Amendment
Plessy v. Ferguson
Brown v. Board of Education
Loving v. Virginia
U.S. v. Virginia
Romer v. Evans
Lawrence v. Texas

Modalities of Constitutional Law


State action doctrine is a legal principle that the Fourteenth Amendment applies only to state and local governments, not to private entities. Under state action doctrine, private parties outside of government do not have to comply with procedural or substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. For example, the First Amendment does not apply to private schools because they are not part of state or local government.

There are two exceptions to this rule for:

  • public functions
  • entanglement

These exceptions hold that private corporations performing government functions, such as handling law enforcement in a small town, would be subject to the Fourteenth Amendment. Similarly, high school athletic associations dictating who may compete in high school programs have been held to be subject to the Fourteenth Amendment. This is important to homeschooling as it attempts to end discrimination by public school sports leagues.[1]


  1. See, e.g., NJSIAA.