Positive Atheism Forum
Graphic Rule
Housing Discrimination
In Michigan

Graphic Rule

3 January 1999

Landlord Can't Deny Leases to
Michigan Couples 'Living in Sin,'
State Supreme Court Rules

Wednesday, December 23, 1998

DETROIT (ACLU) -- The Michigan Supreme Court ruled today that landlord John Hoffius violated the civil rights of two couples in 1993 when he refused to rent to them because of his belief that they would be "living in sin."

In a 4-2 decision overturning three lower court rulings, the court said that it is illegal to discriminate against couples in housing based on their marital status. The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which filed a "friend-of-the-court" brief on behalf of the couples, hailed the decision.

"The Supreme Court ruling is a victory for those who support equal access to housing," said ACLU of Michigan Legal Director Michael Steinberg. "The Supreme Court correctly recognized that the when the Legislature outlawed housing discrimination based on 'marital status' it obviously intended to stop landlords from refusing to rent to couples simply because they were unmarried."

"The ruling is also important," he added, "because it recognizes that a landlord's religious beliefs cannot be used to justify discrimination."

Writing for the majority, Justice Marilyn Kelly said: "We conclude that the defendants discriminated against the plaintiffs on the basis of their marital status in violation of the Civil Rights Act. Defendants' constitutional freedom of religion rights do not supersede the plaintiffs' civil rights under the act."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed an amicus brief on behalf of the couples, Kristal McCready and Keith Kerr and Rose Biaz and Peter Perusse.

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: Cliff Walker <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Sent: Thursday 14 January 1999 9:51
To: Michael Morrison
Subject: Re: Religious Housing Discrimination

However, this landlord is conducting business on the property in question, and that changes the property rights somewhat. My landlord, who owns the building, is not allowed to enter my unit without notice and/or good cause. I am held responsible if someone gets hurt in my unit unless I can prove landlord neglegence.

Fair Housing (Act?) prevents the landlord from discriminating against me when renting units. I think this is the bottom line, and the court carried this issue one step further when hearing this admittedly tricky case.

Housing Authority (HUD) must recognize unwed couples, particularly gays and lesbians, when renting units in projects or when granting Section 8 vouchers.

There is such a thing as smoke-free housing now. I don't know how they are pulling it off. I don't want to get into the "addict is handicapped" thing right now (it's pure bullshit from every conceivable angle), but the line of reasoning I would use against a smoking neighbor is, Okay, as long as your smoke never enters my unit. Another angle is the ol' oxygen tank ruse -- I've actually used that one before -- before I started smoking again.

Cliff Walker

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

West Landlords Can Reject Unwed Couples

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Religious landlords can refuse to rent to unmarried couples, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

The 2-1 decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge's ruling in favor of two Alaska landlords who said Christian beliefs forbade them to have unwed renters.

The ruling came despite Alaska's ban on housing discrimination based on marital status. If Thursday's ruling stands, it will be binding on federal courts in California and seven other Western states, too. Circuit Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain said the Alaska law interfered with property owners' free exercise of religion as well as their property rights and freedom of speech.

Graphic Rule

From: Cliff Walker <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Sent: Monday 18 January 1999 7:47
To: Michael Morrison
Subject: Re: PosAth/ Quotes section; Q&A section; Chat list

This could open a whole can of worms.

What if someone is a member of that Christian sect called the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and wants to discriminate against blacks? Our culture has already had that discussion, and I think this one is an extension of that.

I say that the landlord is conducting business with the public, and therefore may want to seriously consider getting out of the landlord business. It is not unlike the Christian guy who owned a Shell station and wanted to close it on Sunday. Shell said seven days or no days.

I'll try to track down all our correspondence and post it, and then throw it up to the group for discussion.

Cliff Walker

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: Cliff Walker <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Sent: Monday 18 January 1999 8:13
To: Undisclosed.Recipients
Subject: PosAth/ Question: Christian Housing Discrimination; &c.

Christian Housing Discrimination Discussion Explodes!

Earlier this month, I sent an article (above) about the Michigan Supreme Court's decision that a Christian landlord cannot forbid an unwed couple from renting.

Now in a separate case, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, covering Alaska and seven other western states, has said that such laws interfere with property owners' free exercise of religion as well as their property rights and freedom of speech (also see above).

What do you think and why?

I say this whole question opens up a huge can of worms, and have discussed this issue extensively with one of the list members. With his permission, I will eventually post these and any other comments we get. However, I will not prejudice the members of the list by giving you my initial thoughts.

Cliff Walker

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.