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U.S. News Archive
December 01 - December 06, 2000



This page contains news for the period December 01, 2000 through December 06, 2000.  

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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remanded the case to the trial court for consideration as to whether the marital status provision of the statute was superceded by the landlords' religious freedom rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the federal or state constitutions.

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 religion."

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 couple’s 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 the child.

"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 in 1994.

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

AASP is moving its offices to Glendale, California

For the past two years, the staff at AASP has been working out of a 400 square foot home-based office in Los Angeles. With membership growing, additions being made to the staff, and the need for working space for student interns and volunteers, it has become necessary to rent nearby office space.

We just signed a two-year lease for 1350 square feet of office space in Glendale, California – just 4 miles from our original location. We take possession of the office on December 15, 2000.

A photo of our new office building is depicted above. We will be working behind the row of windows across the third floor. Our new address will be 415 E. Harvard, Suite 204, Glendale, CA 91205.

BYU invites AASP to participate in legal conference

BYU Law School

AASP executive director Thomas F. Coleman has been invited by the law school at Brigham Young University to participate in a legal symposium in February 2001.

The conference is entitled: The ALI Family Dissolution Principles: Blueprint to Strengthen or to Deconstruct American Families? The conference will be at Brigham Young University and its J. Reuben Clark Law School in Provo, Utah on February 1-3, 2001.  The conference is co-sponsored by the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University and the Marriage Law Project of the Columbus School of Law, Catholic University.

This past May the American Law Institute approved the Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution (herein "Family Dissolution Principles"), proposing new regulatory standards and rules that would apply in proceedings relating to divorce and dissolution. The subjects covered by the ALI's Family Dissolution Principles include child custody, child support, property division, alimony (renamed "compensatory payments"), antenuptual agreements (covering non-marital cohabitation as well), and domestic partnership. While some of the principles are very familiar to law professors who teach family law, many of the proposals go far beyond existing law and recommend significant policy changes.

A section on "Domestic Partners" in Chapter 6 recommends legalization of domestic partnership by operation of law in every state for both same-sex and heterosexual non-marital couples, giving such couples legal recourse to the courts for equitable distribution of property and assets upon dissolution of the relationship.

The ALI's Family Dissolution Principles has the potential of having tremendous impact on existing family laws.  The prestige of the Institute, and the fact that many well-placed lawyers, distinguished law professors, and influential judges belong to the ALI guarantees that it will have some impact. Already the Family Dissolution Principles has been cited in more than 40 law review articles in the last 18 months alone.

It is the goal of the symposium to generate a very high level exchange of ideas, pro and con, about the ALI proposals. The BYU conference will be the first symposium to address the ALI Family Dissolution Project since it was adopted by the ALI. It also will be one of the first conferences to focus on domestic partnerships since the Vermont legislature enacted a "civil union" domestic partnership statute this year in response to the ruling of the Vermont Supreme Court last December in Baker v. Vermont.

Coleman has been asked to address the following topic: "Perspectives of an Advocate for Domestic Partnership on Chapter 6 of the ALI Family Dissolution Principles."

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