Wednesday, December 6, 2000
Michigan court says landlords can refuse to
rent to unmarried couples
Landlords won the latest court battle in an
ongoing dispute as to whether Michigan landlords may cite their religious objections to
unmarried cohabitation as an excuse to violate the state's fair housing statutes
prohibiting marital status discrimination.
Several years ago, defendants John and Terry
Hoffius refused to rent to two unmarried couples. The couples filed suit against the
landlords, alleging marital status discrimination. Lower court judges ruled against
both unmarried couples as did a court of appeals. These courts held that the term
"marital status" in the civil rights law did not protect unmarried couples.
The unmarried couples convinced the Michigan
Supreme Court to take their case. In December 1998, the Supreme Court overturned the
lower court's decisions, concluding that unmarried couples are protected by the statute.
However, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court for consideration
as to whether the marital status provision of the statute was superceded by the landlords'
religious freedom rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the federal or state
Today, Circuit Court Judge Alexander C.
Perlos ruled that the marital status provision of the Michigan fair housing law was
unconstitutional to the extent that it required landlords to rent to unmarried couples
despite the landlord's sincerely held religious beliefs against unmarried cohabitation.
The judge cited the Free Exercise of Religion Clause of the Michigan Constitution
as the basis for his decision.
Perlos ruled that "the state does not
have a compelling interest for the prohibition against discrimination in housing for
unmarried couples that outweighs the defendant's right to the free exercise of their
Perlos did not address the argument that
allowing landlords to impose a religious test as a condition of tenancy would violate the
federal constitution's requirement of separation of church and state. Likewise, his
opinion does not answer the claim that the federal fair housing statute prohibits
religious discrimination and that what the landlord's did in this case was tantamount to
religious discrimination. Either of these arguments, if accepted by the courts,
would override the Michigan constitution due to the supremacy of federal law.
Jim Fleming, attorney for the tenants, said that his clients
have decided not to appeal the case. They were satisfied that the Supreme Court had
previously ruled that unmarried couples are protected by the marital status provisions in
the statute. They did not want to create a binding precedent throughout the state
that would allow landlords to cite their religious beliefs as an excuse to violate the
law. As it now stands, the ruling of Judge Perlos only affects this specific
landlord and no others.
Tuesday, December 4, 2000
Hawaii court grants unmarried partner
the right to be adoptive co-parent of partner's biological child
A story published today in the Honolulu Advertiser reports that Family Court Judge John C.
Bryant Jr. approved a couples adoption request to divide parental rights equally
between the birth mother who was artificially inseminated and her lesbian partner.
Carolyn Mori, 42, and her partner, Lora Day, 36, were
delighted when the court granted their request that both be legally considered parents of
"Now Kaila will have a right to my military medical
disability payments until she is grown," said Day, a student at the University of
Hawaii in Manoa.
Newly divorced are cautious about sexual partners
A story published today by Reuters Health reports that people who get divorced or split
from a long-term partner are likely to have a new sexual encounter with only one person
during the first year after the big break-up, dispelling the myth that these people are
initially sexually promiscuous, according to a new study.
"You have to realize that people who have been married or lived with someone for a
number of years have always had steady access to a sexual partner. It is not surprising to
me that they don't run out and have sexual relations with many people very quickly,"
Dr. John D. DeLamater told Reuters Health.
"Nevertheless, these people do not appear to have problems with establishing new
potentially intimate relationships and that is good," he said.
The study included 3,215 men and women aged 18 to 59 who were living in the United States
Those who recently separated from a partner reported one new sex partner within a year of
the break-up. This was the same number of sex partners reported by people who were single
and those who were in a new relationship in the year before the survey.
The study, conducted by DeLamater and Lisa D. Wade, both of the University of
Wisconsin-Madison, was presented in November at the annual meeting of The Society for the
Scientific Study of Sex.
Unattached single adults did not report having the most sex of all the types of people
studied "Those who recently entered into a new relationship where having sex
the most frequently each week," DeLamater told Reuters Health. Individuals in a
long-term relationship followed this group, then those newly broken-up, with those
consistently single falling into last place.
Friday, December 1, 2000