Center for Equal Opportunity

The nation’s only conservative think tank devoted to issues of race and ethnicity.

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Mt. Holly and “Disparate Impact”

This year the Supreme Court had agreed to resolve a fundamental question about the Fair Housing Act that it has never answered: Can you be found guilty of racial discrimination if you have not engaged in racial discrimination?

Suppose, for example, that the owner of an apartment complex decides that she does not want to rent units to individuals who have been convicted of drug offenses. She makes that decision without regard to race, her policy on its face does not treat people differently because of race, and indeed she enforces it in an evenhanded way, so that it applies equally to all applicants, without regard to race. Should she be liable for racial discrimination under the Fair Housing Act if it turns out that the policy in her neck of the woods has a disproportionate effect on this or that racial or ethnic group?

The Obama administration and the civil-rights establishment say, “Yes,” even though most everyone else would say, “No.” The administration and the civil-rights groups are afraid, in particular, that the Supreme Court will answer the question, “No,” too, and so they want very much to keep the Court from resolving this issue.

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Disparate Impact Insanity

In case you missed it, on February 26 I had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled “How Not To Fight Discrimination.”  Here it is:

Welcome to the era of "disparate impact."

The Obama administration this month issued regulations formally adopting the "disparate impact" approach to its enforcement of the Fair Housing Act, the 1968 law designed to protect buyers and renters from discrimination (racial and otherwise). This approach is increasingly becoming standard in housing and every area of the law.

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Happy Thanksgiving, and more

First of all, a Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from the Center for Equal Opportunity! We at CEO have much to be thankful for this year, and that certainly includes supporters like you.

One thing we would not put on our most-thankful-for list, however, is wacky interpretations of the civil-rights laws. Speaking of which …

The Supreme Court granted review earlier this month in Magner v. Gallagher, which presents the question whether a “disparate impact” cause of action can be brought under the Fair Housing Act. Such lawsuits would allow plaintiffs to challenge housing-related practices that lead to disproportionate racial or ethnic results, whether or not they have anything to do with actual discrimination. For example, a preference for tenants without criminal records could be attacked if this or that racial or ethnic group was more likely to have such a record. Many lower courts have recognized disparate-impact lawsuits, alas, but the Supreme Court has never resolved the issue.

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The (Illegitimate) Elephant in the Room

“Quid Pro Quota” is the apt title of an editorial this month in the Wall Street Journal (behind the paywall here). Here’s the story: Earlier this year, the Supreme Court was poised to hear oral arguments in the fully briefed Magner v. Gallagher, a case presenting the issue of whether a “disparate impact” cause of action may be brought under the Fair Housing Act.

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