Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, better known as the Fair Housing Act turns 50 this year. Title VIII was the culmination of a number of laws that focused on personal rights. Personal property rights are protected in Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was enacted to specify that all citizens, regardless of race or color, were equally protected under the law, which includes property rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The Fair Housing Act expanded the protected classes by prohibiting discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and familial status (the presence of children).
Some states and localities further expand the protected classes specified in the Fair Housing Act. For example, Maryland protects fair housing regardless of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. Montgomery County protects fair housing regardless of race, sex, marital status, physical or mental disability, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, presence of children, source of income, sexual orientation, age and family responsibilities.
Some say we have come a long way in protecting fair housing rights. But have we? Even though we have come a long way to protect the rights for a number of groups, some still find it acceptable to discriminate against those who are not listed as a protected class.
It was reported last week that a home seller in Sacramento CA put her home for sale with the caveat to not sell to a Donald Trump supporter. Some legal experts say the home seller may run into a legal challenge based on the First Amendment. There are only a few states that include political affiliation, activity, or opinion as a protected class against discrimination. California’s Bane Civil Rights Act includes political affiliation as a protected class against violence or the threat of violence.
Drew Bollea of CBS 13 of Sacramento (sacramento.cbslocal.com) reported that the home seller stated that she did not want to sell to a Trump supporter. And when it was pointed out that it could possibly narrow the buyer pool by 39 percent (39 percent of Sacramento voted for the President), she said that she did not care because her point was more important than money. She stated, “When you’re talking about principles, ethics and morals, it runs very, very deep.”
Principles, ethics and morals Indeed. Going back to the intentions of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the spirit of the Fair Housing Act is inclusion. In today’s politically divisive atmosphere, there are many who would agree with the Sacramento home seller’s rationale of her discriminatory demand. However, her excuse proclaiming “principle, ethics and morality” harken back to the rationale of discriminatory practices of the past.
April is National Fair Housing Month. It’s ironic that while President Trump proclaimed this year’s Fair Housing Month recognizing the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Fair Housing Act, those who voted for him are singled out. It appears there is still much work ahead for fair housing advocates. In his proclamation, President Trump urged “all Americans to learn more about their rights and responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act and reaffirm their commitment to making homeownership within reach, no matter one’s background.”
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