Roommate-Finder Doesn’t Facilitate Discrimination, Court Rules

Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2012

The residential matchmakers at Roommates.com aren’t engaged in housing discrimination when they heed their clients’ preferences for whom they are willing to share their inner sanctum with, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

“There’s no place like home,” the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals stated in defending the home as the most private of places and beyond the government’s power to regulate.

The ruling overturned a federal judge’s decision two years ago that Roommates.com was facilitating discrimination and ordered the service to cease asking clients to state their gender, sexual orientation and whether or not children were among the prospective tenants.

Fair Housing Councils of the San Fernando Valley and San Diego had sued the Web-based roommate-finding service alleging violations of the 1968 Fair Housing Act and its amendments 20 years later.

The appeals court had ruled in 2008 that Roommates.com and other private companies linking up prospective home sharers weren’t specifically exempted from the housing act’s prohibition on soliciting from potential buyers or renters information about their race, color, religion, sex, familial status or national origin.

{snip}

“The home is the center of our private lives. Roommates note our comings and goings, observe whom we bring back at night, hear what songs we sing in the shower, see us in various stages of undress and learn intimate details most of us prefer to keep private,” Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in the ruling sprinkled with statements about the inviolability of home.

Women often prefer female roommates for reasons of modesty, Kozinski wrote, and adherents to certain religions may have practical considerations for seeking to share space with someone of their own faith.

{snip}

The ruling by the three-judge panel split 2-1 on some procedural issues but was unanimous in the conclusion that the government should stay out of the roommate business, defining the space rented by a roommate as something other than a “dwelling” subject to the Fair Housing Act prohibitions.

{snip}

Tim Alger, who represented Roommates.com throughout the eight-year legal battle, said he was pleased with the outcome but that the case was without merit and should never have been brought.

“The notion that the government can regulate who you’re going to live with is very far-fetched,” he said.

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  • Anonymous

    I cannot believe that even in overly-sensitive, politcally-correct America that this was even an issue. For decades, whenever someone placed a personal ad, it was common to see SWM or SBF and understand that this individual was a “single white male” or “single white female.”

    The role of the government is to protect people and their property, not to force them onto each other against the will of both parties.

  • Anonymous

    Judge Kozinski is one of the most level-headed, common-sense judges on the federal bench.  

    • Oil Can Harry

      Kozinski is indeed a very good libertarian judge.

      Why do I get the feeling the bureaurats who filed this lawsuit did so in order to justify their useless and unnecessary gov’t jobs?

  • Anonymous

    The ruling only affects ads. Legally one can discriminate against roomates or renters that will be in an adjacent small property for any reason whatsoever, they just couldn’t state their preferences in the ad. The advertisement rules should match the actual legal restrictions so this is good.

  • crystal evans

    I am glad that someone finally has a degree of common sense. People want to live with people they feel comfortable with. Single women prefer to live with other single women and not live with a single male or a single mother with children.  They should not fear being sued by Fair Housing for refusing to allow someone who she is not comfortable with.

    • Anonymous

      They could refuse before as well, they just couldn’t put the restrictions in an ad until now.

  • There are two white men from Pennsylvania with Polish-sounding surnames in Federal prison right now for beating up a Hispanic man.  The state jury found them not guilty because it was a bar fight, but the Razatards whined and moaned, and the Feds dug up the “fair housing” angle, and the AUSAs conned a Federal jury into believing it.

    With this precedent that people who don’t have the direct decision making ability over mortgage or rental decisions aren’t subject to the Fair Housing Act, this could be good news for them.

  • But this IS an issue.  Any anti-discrimination law prevents exactly that…. choice…. in housing, in who you work with…. in your society if you want.  So you;re not free to choose.

    Just one example… in Toronto where there is massive nonwhite immigration, you can’t advertise white only or prefer to hire/ rent to a white christian etc BUT there are lots of commercials for asians, black roommate preferred, must speak Chinese,  south-asian speaking preferred.   These euphemisms dont fool anybody.  Frankly freedom of choice should (and must) rule in these situations, yet what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander.

    Private organizations are just that–people’s individual choice.  I choose my friends based on all kinds of discriminations, I will choose my partner based on that as well. 

    If the PC government had its way, they would try to outlaw my choice of friends/sexual companion IF it could be shown to be based on discrimination (that the government doesnt like).   Alas for the government they can;t pretend YET to know this.

  • So it took a an eight year legal battle to decide who I allow to recide in my own home? Man, this place gets more ridiculous and scary, I am glad I have guns, for the time being anyway

  • Anonymous

    Presumably the good people at the Fair Housing Councils of the San Fernando Valley and San Diego would be satisfied with a website that randomly “matched” any two people looking for a roommate. I mean, who could possibly object to that right? What’s wrong with ebay automatically selecting the bid that buys what you are selling without your input? What’s wrong with youtube choosing videos for you? How about google deciding that whatever you were searching for just wasn’t “fair” and substituting something else? I’m so thankful that California regularly produces such wise and enthusiastic defenders of equality. 

  • Anonymous

    So? When did a court decision ever stop Comrade Obama? I’m sure Eric Holder will find a way to prosecute a “racist” White female for not wanting a Black male as a roommate.

  • “The notion that the government can regulate who you’re going to live with is very far-fetched,” he (Tim Alger) said.

    Is it? The notion that the government could regulate how one operates an enterprise on the basis of “non-descrimination” probably seemed far-fetched at one time too.

    The headline of this piece is a real-word lesson in Orwell’s “Newspeak”. “Roommate-Finder Doesn’t Facilitate Discrimination” it says. The lawsuit was decided in the company’s favor because it was “found” that the company did not facilitate discriminative decision-making on the part of their clients… WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT THE COMPANY DID. They DID facilitate discrimination, allowing clients to pick out roommates based on their own preferences rather than simply using a random sorting system or a “progressive” system grounded in the interests of diversity or social justice. 

    Thank God that the judge in this case was sane enough to realize that discrimination is rational, useful, and good in at least some quarters of society. The legal enforcement of “non-discrimination” is a sadistic rape of Liberty.

  • It seems to be an immutable law of government that politicians, and prosecutors, will pass laws and enforce them as if there are no moral, legal or logical limits.  They don’t consider it their job to determine whether a proposed law would be constitutional or not; that’s a job for the courts.  They just do as they please, with no constraints.  Once a law is passed, it will be enforced to the ultimate extreme – until somebody fights back.  Unfortunately, it takes a lot of money, courage, and time to fight back.

    It is not only discrimination law where we see this.  There is a general lack of common sense, proportion or logic in the “War on Some Drugs” as well.  Child pornography law is another great example (kids getting prosecuted for taking photos of themselves, people in prison for possession of comics etc.).  This is why laws should only be passed if there is no other option.  Only as a last resort.

    http://www.jewamongyou.wordpress.com

  • Anonymous

    It’s about time.