You Can't Say That! The Growing Threat to Civil Liberties from Antidiscrimination Laws

You Can't Say That! The Growing Threat to Civil Liberties from Antidiscrimination Laws

You Can't Say That! The Growing Threat to Civil Liberties from Antidiscrimination Laws

You Can't Say That! The Growing Threat to Civil Liberties from Antidiscrimination Laws

Synopsis

In a misguided attempt to eradicate every vestige of discrimination in our society, activists and courts are using antidiscrimination laws to erode civil liberties such as free speech, the free exercise of religion, and freedom of association.

Excerpt

Ann Hacklander-Ready rented a four-bedroom house in Madison, Wisconsin, and sublet three of the bedrooms to female housemates. After two housemates moved out, Hacklander-Ready and her remaining housemate, Maureen Rowe, looked for replacements. They initially accepted a rent deposit from a woman named Caryl Sprague, whom they knew to be a lesbian. Upon further reflection, however, Hacklander-Ready and Rowe decided they were not comfortable sharing their living space with a lesbian, and they returned Sprague's deposit.

Sprague responded by filing a discrimination complaint against both Hacklander-Ready and Rowe with the Madison Civil Rights Commission. Sprague's claim relied on Madison's fair housing ordinance, which did not, on its face, indicate whether it applied to roommates. Hacklander-Ready and Rowe argued that it didn't; an administrative law judge decided that it did. the judge awarded Sprague $2,000 for emotional distress, $1,000 for punitive damages, and $300 for the security deposit she lost trying to secure another apartment, along with costs and attorney's fees. Rowe settled, but Hacklander-Ready, convinced that her civil liberties were being violated, appealed.

On appeal, the court agreed that the fair housing ordinance applied to Caryl Sprague's roommate situation. This result was remarkable, because shortly after Sprague filed her discrimination complaint, the Madison City Council had amended the housing ordinance to clarify that “[n]othing in this ordinance shall affect any person's decision to share occupancy of a lodging room, apartment or dwelling unit with another person or persons.” the city council was speaking directly to the Sprague case and making clear its support of Hacklander-Ready and Rowe's right to discriminate. the appellate court, however, refused to consider this amendment in resolving the ambiguity in the original law. the court also rejected . . .

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