By Jessica Gafkowitz
This past weekend's breaking news about Elena Kagan has added urgency to Alternatives to Marriage's call for for Congress to amend the federal Fair Housing Act to ban marital status discrimination in housing across the nation.
Even though California has strong fair housing laws, everyone reading this blog could know someone who has been discriminated against. Over one half of American households are headed by unmarried people, including nearly 6.15 million households headed by cohabiting couples (of whom 88.6% are different-sex couples). Marital status discrimination in housing is both widespread and legal - and completely unfair however, only about half of U.S. states and many localities prohibit it. In states that are silent on the issue, a landlord can legally refuse to rent to an unmarried couple, a town can decree that unmarried families, roommates or extended families cannot live certain neighborhoods.
While a new bill has been introduced (H.R. 4820 The Fair and Inclusive Housing Rights Act) that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, this is not enough - marital status must also be added. AtMP also calls on states that have existing laws against marital status discrimination to enforce them, and calls for the repeal of all anti-cohabitation laws.
As Tenants Together points out in their blog post on this issue, back in 1995-1996, Elena Kagan recommended federal intervention over a California Supreme Court ruling that a landlord's religious freedom was not burdened by a state law prohibiting housing discrimination on the basis of marital status.
Alternatives to Marriage is a non-profit organization that advocates for the fairness and equality for ALL unmarried people and against marital status discrimination, AtMP opposes her nomination unless she withdraws her former statement and demonstrates an understanding about the injustices of marital status discrimination.
Join our call to expand the federal Fair Housing Act and speak out against Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s outrageous statement that a landlord’s religious beliefs justify denying housing to an unmarried couple!
Jessica Gafkowitz is a communications assistant at Alternatives to Marriage. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org