When Kramer tries to organize his New Years party for the year in 2000, he declines to include any underwater activities as not everyone will be able to breathe underwater and “he doesn’t want to exclude anybody.” Could Kramer exclude people who don’t breathe underwater from attending his party? Could Newman legally make the next Millennium Jerry-free?
Obviously, Kramer is doing the right thing to be as inclusive as possible. We would certainly love to be invited to his Millennium celebration. But does the law force him to do so? Based upon the Civil Rights Act of 1964, public accommodations are not allowed to discriminate against anyone on the basis “of race, color, religion, or national origin.” The law was later upheld by the Supreme Court.
What this means is that if Kramer or Newman were operating a restaurant, hotel, retail store, or some other kind of area open to the public then he would not be able to discriminate based upon “race, color, religion, or national origin.” Excepted from the law, however, are private clubs and religious organizations.
Since both Kramer and Newman are private individuals, and are hosting private New Years parties, they are free to invite anyone they want without fear of breaking Civil Rights legislation.
But for the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume that they were hosting a public party open for anyone to attend – similar to if Kramer or Newman owned a bar and were charging a cover fee for attendance. Court Kramer host an underwater party, even if only part of the population could breathe underwater? The answer would depend on if if the ability to breathe underwater was specifically related to a particular race, color, religion, or national origin. This seems highly unlikely, however.
We could conduct a different analysis under the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the ADA), which mandated that public establishments provide reasonable accommodations to those with disabilities. These types of accommodations generally include wheelchair accessibility, guardrails, or brail on elevator doors. So if Kramer wants to host a party where it is a requirement to breath underwater, would this be discrimination under the ADA against those who can’t breath underwater?
Like so many Seinfeld episodes, this analysis has gone off the deep end. But we hope it has helped to teach you a little about the two major pieces of Civil Rights legislation passed in the last 70 years.
As for whether Newman could exclude Jerry from his party, the answer is almost certainly 100% yes. Newman has every right to exclude a particular individual from his party so long as he isn’t doing so based upon race, color, religion, or national origin. Nowhere in the episode does Newman state that he doesn’t want Jerry at the party because Jerry is a white man, or Jewish, or any classification that is protected under Federal law. Instead, Newman only wants to exclude Jerry because “the next millennium must be, Jerry-free.” While perhaps a little bizarre, this is not discriminatory behavior.
But what do you think? Does excluding water breathers or air breathers violate the Civil Rights Acts? Should Jerry be allowed to attend Newman’s party?