WASHINGTON — The Japanese American Citizens League is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a key anti-discrimination standard within the Fair Housing Act.
The Supreme Court heard arguments Jan. 21 in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project Inc. in order to decide whether disparate impact claims are allowable under the Fair Housing Act.
A cornerstone of U.S. civil rights legislation, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibits discrimination in the sale and rental of housing and in mortgage lending on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap. The disparate impact theory prohibits laws or policies that may not be openly discriminatory in wording or intent but that have an unjustified adverse impact on members of the previously listed protected classes.
JACL Executive Director Priscilla Ouchida issued the following statement: “The loss of the disparate impact standard in the Fair Housing Act would be a huge blow to the civil rights of all Americans seeking equal housing opportunities. In contrast to the more overt offenses of the past, discrimination is now largely the result of neutral-sounding rules and policies. The disparate impact standard is a critically important and a widely accepted safeguard that protects Americans against these instances of de facto discrimination.
“By finding that individuals cannot bring disparate impact claims under the Fair Housing Act, the Supreme Court is effectively opening the door to the kind of racist, sexist, and prejudiced housing policies that this act intended to eliminate.”
In the Supreme Court case, the Inclusive Communities Project is alleging that the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs disproportionately approved federal housing tax credits in minority-concentrated neighborhoods and disapproved them in predominately Caucasian areas, thereby causing a concentration of low-cost housing in minority areas and perpetuating segregated housing patterns in Dallas.
Specifically, ICP argued that this discriminatory effect constituted a violation of the Fair Housing Act under the disparate impact theory. Amicus curiae briefs in support of ICP and the applicability of the disparate impact theory under the Fair Housing Act have also been filed by the U.S. Solicitor General, current and former members of Congress, and organizations including the ACLU and NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
JACL has a long history of supporting civil rights initiatives in the court system, fighting to desegregate public schools in Brown v. Board of Education and working to end laws prohibiting interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia.