“Hands off people’s choice of roommates”

by Walter Olson on March 25, 2012

The Ninth Circuit properly vindicates the constitutional principle of freedom of association in a clash with housing discrimination law. [Rigel Oliveri, Washington Post]

{ 10 comments }

1 Richard Nieporent 03.25.12 at 10:35 am

After reading the article you have some idea why Liberals/Leftists are a bane on society. This great civil rights lawyer was alarmed that people would be allowed to advertise on Craig’s list because he just knew that everyone, unlike himself, is a bigot.

However, also being an academic, this would give him an opportunity to study bigots in the wild. He, surprisingly only to himself, found that the “discriminatory ads” were overwhelming placed by individuals seeking roommates. Imaging that. It is lucky we have academics to discover such an obvious result.

“But some of this is surely due to the intimate nature of the roommate relationship. Roommates share close quarters and often spend a good deal of time together.”

Wow, what a revelation. Nobody other than this great academic could have figured this out all by himself.

My research also revealed that most of the ads expressing a racial, religious or ethnic preference were placed by members of minority groups who were seeking roommates like themselves.

No matter their motives, however, these people were in violation of the Fair Housing Act and subject to civil prosecution. Yet this cannot be a proper application of the law.

Of course not. Only white males can be bigots.

Yet this cannot be a proper application of the law. Just as it would be abhorrent for the government to prevent people of different races, ethnicities or religions from living together, it would be equally offensive to block people of a shared race, ethnicity or religion from living together. The right of free association should allow those seeking roommates to limit their searches to people with whom they will be comfortable.

He has to explain this to the readers as if they were incapable of understanding that we have (or should have) an inalienable right to associate with whom we please.

Which brings us to the 9th Circuit’s recent decision. In ruling that the First Amendment protects people’s ability to advertise and exercise preferences for roommates, the court brings the law in line with a view surely shared by many across all segments of society.
The decision may look like a setback for civil rights,

Only to a Leftist ideologue like the author.

yet it also has pro-civil-rights implications. If we have a right to live with whomever we choose, then people in non-traditional living arrangements — unmarried couples, for instance — should be protected from governmental intrusion.

Oh wait, the world has not ended. He was able to come up with a rationalization that would satisfy his Leftist tendencies to control everyone’s thoughts and actions.

If the 9th Circuit had ruled differently, the potential for backlash would have been enormous and support for a crucial civil rights law would have been undermined.

Now we get to the real point. He was afraid that oppressive fair housing act would be weakened and Leftists like himself would not be able to control everyone’s lives.

2 Melvin H. 03.25.12 at 11:18 am

Hmmmm, an interesting idea here: Would such as Title IX and the Americans with Disabilities Act (and the ADA-AA) hold up as constitutional, if held up to the standard of freedom of association (or by implication, freedom FROM association)? Just a thought…..

3 Robert 03.25.12 at 11:36 am

An employee of mine had advertised on northern California Craigslist for a roommate. One common email she received was “you are illegally discriminating” when she expressed a preference for sex and for someone who was familiar with the laws of Kashrut and was willing to keep Kosher. Interestingly adding the “Jewish” angle to the ad brought out the “you’re discriminating crowd”; no doubt they’re mostly California liberals who are biased against Jews.

4 Hugo S. Cunningham 03.25.12 at 12:10 pm

If the court ruled otherwise, one could see prosecutions for discrimination against the “mentally handicapped,” including criminal psychopaths. Advertising for a roommate would become like playing Russian Roulette.

5 Flemur 03.26.12 at 6:48 am

The Ninth Circuit properly vindicates the constitutional principle of freedom of association …

Just the most limited version of that freedom.

6 Jack Wilson 03.26.12 at 12:06 pm

I’m surprised liberals haven’t prohibited people from specifying race, gender or orientation in personal ads.

7 Bill Alexander 03.26.12 at 12:56 pm

It is just a matter of time until they specify your spouse.

8 Ron Miler 03.26.12 at 1:33 pm

Let’s not build up too much of a straw man here. It was a civil rights lawyer who wrote this piece opposing the law. I think most everyone – except for the plaintiffs in this case – agrees that it would be a mistake to extend this law to shared living situations.

I like how the opinion begins:

“There’s no place like home. In the privacy of your own
home, you can take off your coat, kick off your shoes, let your
guard down and be completely yourself. While we usually
share our homes only with friends and family, sometimes we
need to take in a stranger to help pay the rent. When that happens, can the government limit whom we choose? Specifically, do the anti-discrimination provisions of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) extend to the selection of roommates.”

9 Bill H 03.26.12 at 2:57 pm

Nice fisking, Richard.

10 Jack Wilson 03.27.12 at 5:40 pm

Have ‘fair’ housing law challenges ever made it to the Supreme Court? I can’t think of any consitutional justification for this interference in property rights.

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