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"Straight or Gay Only" Renters May Lose Option to Choose

A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that a district court should consider a case brought by the The Fair Housing Councils of San Fernando Valley and San Diego against roommates.com. The Fair Housing Councils say that options on profiles by renters indicating "straight or gay only" are discriminatory.

RoommatesSaid the court: "While Roommate provides a useful service, its search mechanism and email notifications mean that it is neither a passive pass-through of information provided by others nor merely a facilitator of expression by individuals. By categorizing, channeling and limiting the distribution of users' profiles, Roommate provides an additional layer of information that it is 'responsible' at least 'in part' for creating or developing. Whether these actions ultimately violate the FHA is a question the district court must decide in the first instance."

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  1. That's just stupid and hopefully the Court will recognize that there is a big difference between renting a house to someone and picking a roommate. And while there is no reason for discrimination in the former (why do you care if they pay the rent and don't trash the place); in the latter case, you should be given wide latitude in determining who you want to share your living space with.

    Does this mean I can't screen out Wingnuts who might want to move in and convert me from my sinful ways? Do women have to accept male roommates? Am I required to share my home with a Republican? This is exactly where such a precedent will lead.

    Posted by: Steve | May 16, 2007 11:56:13 AM

  2. Super stupid and violates the 4th amendment.

    Posted by: anon | May 16, 2007 12:05:08 PM

  3. If you own a condo and are renting it, shouldn't you be able to choose who you want to rent that apartment? While I think it is completely ridiculous to care, I can see how super religious people who oppose homosexuality as a lifestyle might not want gay people living in their rental unit. While its entirely ignorant to have that viewpoint, I feel everyone is entitled to be ignorant when it comes to their personal property.

    Posted by: Anon | May 16, 2007 1:20:35 PM

  4. To the last Anon: do you feel the same way about landlords refusing to rent racial minorities? Because that kind of thinking leads to the redlining that the Supreme Court found unconstitutional decades ago. Catch up.

    Posted by: Huntington | May 16, 2007 2:38:14 PM

  5. To Anon.,

    The law is designed to stop landowners who choose to rent their properties just for that reason. In the past whole classes of people could not find safe and affordable housing because groups of landowners refused to rent to them. This forced some of these groups to have to move or live in sub-standard housing. It's an issue of safety and freedom to live where on chooses to live.

    If landowners don't want to rent to whoever is out on the market to rent then they shouldn't be renting out their properties. If you don't like the rules of the game, then don't play - that simple.

    Posted by: Joe G. | May 16, 2007 3:34:14 PM

  6. Ah, this is about selecting roommates, not renting to tenants. "www.roommates.com"

    Now, if there were separate sections of the website, one for landlords and one for roommates then they might have a case, but sexual orientation is not yet a federally protected class and should be dealt with in state courts. Except...

    There is a final problem of jurisdiction. This is a nationally available website. Are the local laws of California and all other jurisdictions going to have a say in how this site is run, and every other website in the world? That would be complete chaos.

    I looked at the site. It's for finding roommates. You can prevent anyone from being your roommate for any reason just as you can exclude any type of person for the purposes of dating.

    Posted by: anon | May 16, 2007 4:26:40 PM

  7. This isn't an issue of an absentee owner renting the entire property or unit. This is about having the freedom to choose with whom you share your home.

    Can you turn this around and ask how we would feel about people saying "white only"? Sure. And that could be quite offensive to people. But it is (or should be) the right of an individual to have the freedom to restrict or encourage who s/he wants living with them.

    If I was going to take in a roommate, I would prefer a gay man. And I would state that in any advertising. I'd consider individuals that differ from that, but it's my right to determine who gets to be in my home.

    Posted by: Patrick W. | May 16, 2007 4:50:17 PM

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