- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Associated Press reported last week that homosexual activists in Spokane, Wash., “are

planning to create a neighborhood of gay-oriented homes, businesses and nightlife — a development religious conservatives contend would clash with Spokane’s family-centered culture.”

Although the activists might want to celebrate their uniqueness and pride, setting up a community to specifically feature one class of homeowners over another could violate the spirit of the Fair Housing Act, if not the letter of the law.

Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (the Fair Housing Act) “prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings … and in other housing-related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians, pregnant women, and people securing custody of children under the age of 18), and handicap (disability),” according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (www.hud.gov).

At first reading, most students in my fair-housing class immediately point to “minorities” as the groups that make up the protected classes under the above legislation.

In reality, everyone is part of a protected class. Race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, disability — all depict some sort of characteristic of every person on the planet.

Because Spokane’s Human Rights Commission’s mission includes the promotion and securing of mutual understanding and “respect among all people regardless of … affectional/sexual orientation …” among other classes, then a homosexual district, though it could be argued as promoting diversity in some larger sense, smacks of exclusivity and preference when it tries to exclude or show preference over a particular sexual orientation.

Such a show of preference for one class of buyers could be construed as discrimination.

Although most consumers understand the concept of not discriminating “against” a certain class, fair-housing laws tout the concept of not showing “preference” for certain classes, as well.

The District enjoys a much larger group of protected classes, including political affiliation, sexual orientation, matriculation and personal appearance, to name a few, in addition to the seven nationally protected classes.

Because sexual preference or orientation is not deemed a protected class on the national level, the homosexual activists’ plans to develop such a community may not violate federal law.

Nevertheless, developing a community for the enjoyment of one group while excluding another could present a legal, if not regulatory, problem, when it comes to local and statewide fair-housing laws.

To demonstrate how this might be an issue for the development company, imagine if the Associated Press report had begun like this: “White activists in Spokane, Wash., are planning to create a neighborhood of white-only homes, businesses and nightlife.”

In today’s culture, such a community would be considered ill-conceived at best and repulsive by most who believe in the American ideal of homeownership.

The fair-housing law is colorblind. Nowhere does it mention a specific color.

By using an extreme example, most will understand that minority groups aren’t the only ones who can be discriminated against and that the majority groups are not the only group that can practice discrimination.

In the fair-housing arena, there is no room for showing preference for one group and prohibiting another group to join in on homeownership.

Resources:

• U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: www.hud.gov

• National Fair Housing Advocate Online: www.fairhousing.com

• National Association of Realtors: www.realtor.org (search “fair housing”).

M. Anthony Carr is the author of “Real Estate Investing Made Simple.” Post questions on his Web log (http://commonsenserealestate.blogspot.com).

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