(CNN) — A class action lawsuit that accused ABC and the firms that produce the dating shows “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” of intentionally excluding people of color from lead roles has been dismissed.
U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger ruled Monday that Nathaniel Claybrooks’ and Christopher Johnson’s efforts were “laudable,” but that casting decisions by the network and series’ producers are protected by the First Amendment.
“The First Amendment prevents the plaintiffs from effectuating these goals by forcing the defendants to employ race-neutral criteria in their casting decisions in order to ‘showcase’ a more progressive message,” the ruling said.
The suit was brought by the two Nashville residents, who are African-American, after they applied to be on “The Bachelor” in 2011.
Johnson alleged in the complaint that when he went to a casting call for the show, he was denied the typical application process. He said his application materials were taken by an employee of the defendants named in the suit; the same wasn’t done for other apparent non-black applicants he saw.
Claybrooks alleges that at his casting call for the show he was interviewed for less time than white applicants, rushed through the process, and therefore not given the same opportunity as the white applicants.
The complaint also alleges that few people of color are chosen to compete for the affection of the “Bachelor” or “Bachelorette,” and when there are, they tend to be eliminated early.
ABC declined to comment on the suit, while another defendant, Warner Horizon Television, called the complaint “baseless and without merit” in a statement to CNN.
The production company says it has had “various participants of color throughout the series’ history, and the producers have been consistently — and publicly — vocal about seeking diverse candidates for both programs. As always, we continue to seek out participants of color for both ‘The Bachelor’ and “The Bachelorette.'”