NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is 
being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.  
The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been 
prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.  
See United States v. Detroit Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337. 
certiorari to the supreme court of minnesota 
No. 90-7675.   Argued December 4, 1991-Decided June 22, 1992 
After allegedly burning a cross on a black family's lawn, petitioner 
 R. A. V. was charged under, inter alia, the St. Paul, Minnesota, Bias- 
 Motivated Crime Ordinance, which prohibits the display of a symbol 
 which one knows or has reason to know ``arouses anger, alarm or 
 resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion or 
 gender.''  The trial court dismissed this charge on the ground that 
 the ordinance was substantially overbroad and impermissibly content- 
 based, but the State Supreme Court reversed.  It rejected the over- 
 breadth claim because the phrase ``arouses anger, alarm or resent- 
 ment in others'' had been construed in earlier state cases to limit the 
 ordinance's reach to ``fighting words'' within the meaning of this 
 Court's decision in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568, 
 572, a category of expression unprotected by the First Amendment.  
 The court also concluded that the ordinance was not impermissibly 
 content-based because it was narrowly tailored to serve a compelling 
 governmental interest in protecting the community against bias- 
 motivated threats to public safety and order.  
Held:The ordinance is facially invalid under the First Amendment.  
   (a)This Court is bound by the state court's construction of the 
 ordinance as reaching only expressions constituting ``fighting words.''  
 However, R. A. V.'s request that the scope of the Chaplinsky formula- 
 tion be modified, thereby invalidating the ordinance as substantially 
 overbroad, need not be reached, since the ordinance unconstitutional- 
 ly prohibits speech on the basis of the subjects the speech addresses.  
   (b)A few limited categories of speech, such as obscenity, defama- 
 tion, and fighting words, may be regulated because of their constitu- 
 tionally proscribable content.  However, these categories are not 
 entirely invisible to the Constitution, and government may not 
 regulate them based on hostility, or favoritism, towards a nonpro- 
 scribable message they contain.  Thus the regulation of ``fighting 
 words'' may not be based on nonproscribable content.  It may, 
 however, be underinclusive, addressing some offensive instances and 
 leaving other, equally offensive, ones alone, so long as the selective 
 proscription is not based on content, or there is no realistic possibility 
 that regulation of ideas is afoot.  Pp.4-12. 
   (c)The ordinance, even as narrowly construed by the State Su- 
 preme Court, is facially unconstitutional because it imposes special 
 prohibitions on those speakers who express views on the disfavored 
 subjects of ``race, color, creed, religion or gender.''  At the same time, 
 it permits displays containing abusive invective if they are not 
 addressed to those topics.  Moreover, in its practical operation the 
 ordinance goes beyond mere content, to actual viewpoint, discrimina- 
 tion.  Displays containing ``fighting words'' that do not invoke the 
 disfavored subjects would seemingly be useable ad libitum by those 
 arguing in favor of racial, color, etc. tolerance and equality, but not 
 by their opponents.  St. Paul's desire to communicate to minority 
 groups that it does not condone the ``group hatred'' of bias-motivated 
 speech does not justify selectively silencing speech on the basis of its 
 content.  Pp.12-15. 
   (d)The content-based discrimination reflected in the ordinance 
 does not rest upon the very reasons why the particular class of 
 speech at issue is proscribable, it is not aimed only at the ``secondary 
 effects'' of speech within the meaning of Renton v. Playtime Theatres, 
 Inc., 475 U.S. 41, and it is not for any other reason the sort that 
 does not threaten censorship of ideas.  In addition, the ordinance's 
 content discrimination is not justified on the ground that the ordi- 
 nance is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest in 
 ensuring the basic human rights of groups historically discriminated 
 against, since an ordinance not limited to the favored topics would 
 have precisely the same beneficial effect.  Pp.15-18.  
464 N.W.2d 507, reversed and remanded. 
 Scalia, J., delivered the  opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, 
C. J., and Kennedy, Souter, and Thomas, JJ., joined.  White, J., filed 
an  opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Blackmun and 
O'Connor, JJ., joined, and in which Stevens, J., joined except as to 
Part I-A.  Blackmun, J., filed an  opinion concurring in the judgment.  
Stevens, J., filed an  opinion concurring in the judgment, in Part I of 
which White and Blackmun, JJ., joined.