How Do Wine Distributors Stand on Racial Segregation?

In Brown v. Board of Education the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in schools violated the 14th Amendment. Oliver Brown was An African-American parent of a young girl. This did not mean that only African American children were protected by the 14th Amendment

In New York Times v. Sullivan the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public officials could not sue a publication over inaccurate information published by mistake. The New York Times was a newspaper. That  did not mean that public officials could sue radio broadcasters if they issued inaccurate information by mistake.

In Miranda v. Arizona the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that suspects have the right to be informed of their civil rights upon arrest. Ernesto Miranda was an Hispanic male. This did not mean that only Hispanic males had the right to be read their rights.

In Granholm v. Heald the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a state may not enact laws that prohibit out-of-state wine shippers from sending wine to a consumer while allowing in-state wine shippers to send wine to its consumers; that this violates the Commerce Clause. Heald was a winery customer. This does not mean that retailer customers are not protected by the same Commerce Clause.

Yet, this is exactly what opponents of retailer to consumer sales contend. They are arguing that the Granholm case was not about the principle of non-discriminatory interstate commerce, about which the U.S. Supreme Court said: "This rule is essential to the
foundations of the Union."

Recently in Illinois it was put forth by wine distributors, parochial wine retailers and lawmakers that this "essential" rule did not apply to wine retailers; that there is something fundamental about wine retailers that sets them off to the side, away from the foundations of the Union. And based on this ridiculously narrow and self-serving interpretation of a what in fact was a broad RE-statement of commerce clause jurisprudence, the Illinois legislature passed a law prohibiting all Illinoisans from ever again buying a wine from a retailer outside the state, while Illinois retailers were allowed to continue to ship wine to Illinoisans.

What’s really interesting about the Granholm case is that it allows room for states to discriminate against out-of-state economic interests IF the state can demonstrate that only through this kind of course, discriminatory policy can it advance its legitimate interests in promoting temperance, an orderly market or tax collection.

This is why at a hearing on the new law (HB 429) a week ago in Springfield, Illinois during my testimony I asked all or any of the Senators in attendance to offer some rational justification for prohibiting Illinois consumers from purchasing and having shipped to them wine from out-of-state retailers.

I got silence. Nothing. Zero. Not a sound. Not a whimper.

In fact, it’s quite interesting that in the many news stories that have quoted supporters of this new anti-consumer law that none of them have actually stated why such a law is needed.  All they’ve said is that they think it is constitutional for the state to discriminate against out-of-state wine stores. In other worlds, their justification for the new law is simply that they can get it passed.

Here’s a tip: Whenever someone will not offer up a justification or reason for doing something, it’s usually because they are not proud of what they are doing.

Eventually someone who supported HB 429 or voted for HB 429 in the Illinois Senate or Assembly will slip up and tell the truth. They’ll say it was done not for any reasons of temperance, an orderly market or for tax collection reasons, but rather to protect Illinois wholesalers and retailers from competition. They might not say "consumer be damned". But they don’t have to.

On another issue, I’d love to hear what Illinois wine distributors think of the idea of school segregation for Hispanic children. For it or against it?


4 Responses

  1. Agent Red - August 14, 2007

    That you were met with blank stares and silence is astounding. Actually, not astounding… downright DISAPPOINTING!
    We support you, Tom. Thank you for leading the charge and fighting the fight.

  2. Fredric Koeppel - August 15, 2007

    Keep their feet to the fire, Tom.

  3. Randy - August 15, 2007

    Wow, Tom. Just wow.
    Just when it seemed your vitriol for HB 429 was spent, you come up with something new. Comparing it to racial segregation, now that is a parallel I just wasn’t prepared for.
    A concern that comes up is that the original Gronholm case was heard by a significantly different Supreme Court than is in place now. So how might the outcome change were HB 429 to go all the way to the highest court THIS time around?

  4. Tom Wark - August 15, 2007

    I believe we’d be in even better shape today given the new justices on the bench. However, anything reaching the Supreme Court would be a long long time from now.

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