Saturday, December 11, 2004

Alaska Supreme Court backs unmarried renters

A story published today in the Anchorage Daily News reports that the Alaska Supreme Court on Friday upheld for the second time a law banning Anchorage landlords from discriminating against unmarried couples.

The court first decided the issue in 1994, when landlord Tom Swanner argued that he had a right to inquire about the marital status of prospective tenants and, on religious grounds, refuse to rent to unmarried couples.

In that case, the court concluded that the law was very narrow and served a compelling state interest by preventing discrimination. The U.S. Constitution does not ban all religious restraint, the justices concluded.

In 2001, three different landlords asked the justices to reconsider and overrule the Swanner decision. Two of the new plaintiffs had taken the issue through the 9th Circuit federal system and lost there.

Writing for a unanimous Alaska court, Justice Alex Bryner said the new landlords "have not clearly convinced us that Swanner was wrongly decided."

The plaintiffs in the 2001 case were Kevin Thomas, Joyce Baker and Jeffrey Bubna.