Friday, February 03, 2006
Crying Baby Keeps Mrs. Murphy Up All Night
Just a quick though from Civil Rights class the other day. We were discussing the Fair Housing Act and the prof. asked if we thought the Mrs. Murphy exemption and the private club exemption were good ideas or bad ones. A number of people said they thought the exemptions should exist so that there would be a place for racism to "vent"; a place away from the general public. Others said this was a bad idea because if racism is bad, it is bad everywhere. The most interesting comments to me, however, were from the students who were very adamant that the exemptions should go, but were sympathetic to the defendants in Oxford House because the plaintiffs in that case were recovering drug addicts, not members of a racial minority. One student said she could understand why the community might not want the recovering addicts in the neighborhood. Another student implied it would be legitimate for an elderly couple to avoid renting to potential tenants that have children that might cry at night. No one raised the point that such discrimination is as much in violation of the statute as race discrimination, even though these two students were clearly not as sympathetic to statutory protections for the disabled (as the recovering drug addicts were) or based on familial status. And I was thinking that I wouldn't want to be told I couldn't discriminate on the basis of sex in picking an apartment-mate now or in the future. So, perhaps the problem is not solely with the exemptions themselves. Perhaps the breadth of the exemption should be inversely related to the number of protected classes. The counter-argument is, I suppose, that this keeps our determination of what constitutes "impermissible discrimination" static. But I think it could also stand for the proposition that there are some discriminations based on sex, familial status and disability that might be legitimate. At least, a number of students in my class seemed to find them less morally reprehensible than discrimination based on race.
Posted by Sarah Kohrs at 2/03/2006 06:41:00 PM