Norton Says Supreme Court Decision Vindicates Major Tool of Fair Housing Act, Strengthening Fight Against Housing Discrimination


WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 29, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), a former chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and a constitutional lawyer, released the following statement after today 5-4 Supreme Court ruling to uphold a key provision of the 1968 Fair Housing Act (FHA), which bars discrimination on the basis of race in housing decisions.

“After the Supreme Court dismembered the Voting Rights Act two years ago today, I was relieved to see the Court’s strong affirmation of the Fair Housing Act. Like Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act barring job discrimination, which I enforced as chair of the EEOC, the Court today said that housing discrimination is not always intentional, but may result from ‘disparate impact,’ or the consequences of an action. Reasoning from major job discrimination case law, the Court points to language in the Fair Housing Act that ‘refers to the consequence of an action.’ Importantly, the Court noted the link between intentional and unintentional discrimination. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, said, ‘Recognition of disparate-impact liability under the FHA also plays a role in uncovering discriminatory intent: It permits plaintiffs to counteract unconscious prejudices and disguised animus that escape easy classification as disparate treatment.’ Most gratifying was the Court’s reaffirmation of the FHA at a time when many modest income residents across here and the nation are unable to remain where they have always lived. The Court said, ‘[A]gainst the backdrop of disparate-impact liability in nearly every jurisdiction, many cities have become more diverse. The FHA must play an important part in avoiding the Kerner Commission’s grim prophecy that “[o]ur Nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.” The Court acknowledges the Fair Housing Act’s continuing role in moving the Nation toward a more integrated society.’”

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