Could the Mos Eisley Cantina Discriminate Against Serving Droids?

Droids are not just made to suffer; Droids are made to be discriminated against. The bartender at the Mos Eisley Cantina took one look at C-3PO and R2D2 and told Luke Skywalker: We don’t serve their kind in here. We don’t want them here.

That is discrimination based upon being a droid. This is not surprising for spaceport known for being a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Whether or not it is illegal on Tatooine is another matter.

States and cities across the United States have made it illegal to refuse to serve people because of their race or color at taverns, tippling houses, or saloons. See, D.C. Code § 47-2902. The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits discriminatory state action. Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1, 13, 68 S. Ct. 836, 842, 92 L. Ed. 1161 (1948). In a case where two women challenged a tavern’s men only policy, the Court found that the licensing of the tavern was a state action to warrant compliance of the Fourteenth Amendment for the female plaintiffs. Seidenberg v. McSorleys’ Old Ale House, Inc., 317 F. Supp. 593, 604-605 (S.D.N.Y. 1970).

California law states that all “persons” are “free and equal” and are entitled to the services in all business establishments of every kind. Cal. Civ. Code § 51. The Code further outlines that “free and equal” includes “sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, citizenship, primary language, or immigration status.” Id.

Mos Eisley Cantina had an extremely broad range of patrons. There were humans, Defels, Lutrillians, Sakiyan, Advozse, Duros, Gotal, and multiple other races, varying in skin color, fur, limbs, horns, tusks, horns, and eyes. (For a detailed list, check out the forum in The Bothan Spy). The Cantina clearly accepted all races and genders, regardless of some extreme physical differences.

The problem for droids is they are not organic life forms. Droids are arguably not “alive” in the biological sense, despite the fact droids are programmed to have emotions. The fact droids are robotic devices with artificial intelligence can put them in a separate category from “organic” lifeforms. As evidenced in every Star Wars film, droids are treated as personal property, just as are pets.

Many places of public accommodation do not allow pets where food is sold, served, or handled. See, National City, California Code of Ordinances Sec. 8.16.060. While many of the patrons at the Cantina have many similar features to domestic and wild animals on Earth, those individuals were allowed in the Cantina.

Droids on the other hand are not organic. While many droids are often made in the image of human beings, such as C-3PO, they are not a “person” with “genetic information.” As human as droids are in Star Wars, they are not organic life forms. At best, they are lovable and loyal pets. Now, if the droids were like service animals, then that is possibly a different result if a human was denied bringing his service droid to the Cantina. See, N.M. Stat. Ann. § 28-11-3. Let’s be honest, we all want a comfort R2-D2.

The Mos Eisley Cantina’s discrimination against C-3PO and R2-D2 was purely on the fact they were droids. There is no justification based on health and safety to prohibit droids from entering the Cantina, especially considering a [naked] Chewbacca, Ponda Baba, and everyone else with fur could walk freely around the Cantina that served drinks for consumption. The practical reason the droids were not wanted in the Cantina, is they do not eat or drink, thus taking up attendee space that could be used by a paying patron. This is a discriminatory reason for refusing service, however, one that might be without a remedy on Tatooine.