Conflict Over Federal Housing Act and First Amendment
COLUMBIA - This week, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that roommate-seekers who discriminate in their choice of living companion are not covered by the Fair Housing Act.
Rigel Oliveri, an associate professor of law at the University of Missouri School of Law and a housing law expert, noted that the 9th Circuit found a conflict between the Federal Housing Act and the First Amendment.
The Federal Housing Act (FHA) prohibits housing advertisements from expressing preferences based on race, ethnicity, religion, or familial status.
The new federal ruling found that roommates - and by extension roommate-matching websites - are exempt from the FHA.
"If the FHA was held to apply to roommates, the potential for privacy invasion and backlash would have been significant," Oliveri said. "People would be very offended to hear that the government had a say in their choice of who they share intimate living space with."
Oliveri acknowledges that the ruling is a blow to fair housing advocates, but believes that the law needs to be applied equally in all circumstances.