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D.C. ruling: Same-sex dorms not discriminatory

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Catholic University is allowed to segregate students' living quarters into same-sex dormitories, according to a ruling handed down Tuesday.

The District's Office of Human Rights said that same-sex dorms do not constitute discrimination or disparate treatment of either sex.

The controversy over same-sex dorms erupted this summer when Catholic University President John Garvey announced plans to implement a same-sex policy for the schools 17 dorms, saying he hoped to reduce incidents of binge drinking and casual sexual hookups.

Law professor and legal activist John F. Banzhaf III challenged the plan, saying it amounted to discrimination.

"Under our D.C. Human Rights Act you cannot discriminate on race, religion, gender - any of these biases - unless it is absolutely required in order to remain in business," Mr. Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University, said at the time he filed the lawsuit. "Can you operate a university without having separate dormitories? The answer is very simple. The answer is yes."

In its decision, the Office of Human Rights wrote that under that reasoning, same-sex bathrooms, locker rooms and sports teams also would be prohibited and "would lead to absurd results."

"Sex discrimination includes more than just differentiating housing facilities," the ruling states. "Like federal law, prohibitions on sex discrimination allow distinctions between the sexes while prohibiting the imposition of 'disadvantageous terms or conditions' because of stereotypes about social roles of the inherent capabilities of the sexes."

The announcement of the plans for same-sex dorms this summer were met with mixed reviews.

Victor Nakas, associate vice president for public affairs at CU, said in June that the plan was well-received.

"The response has been overwhelmingly positive," he said.

Through blogs and social media, many students claimed that the dorm changes would have little to no effect on students' behavior.

However, Brian Willoughby, a researcher at Brigham Young University who has studied university student housing patterns, said their was evidence to support Mr. Garvey's assessments. His studies backed up Mr. Garveys argument that coed dorms are associated with higher levels of binge drinking and sexual hookups, even controlling for religious beliefs and other factors.

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