Most housing discrimination laws don’t prevent you from living with roommates of a particular sex (not surprising, given than women generally don’t want a male roommate). But they do ban you from advertising the fact that you won’t room with people of a particular sex, calling that “discrimination.” Thus, the laws pointlessly keep people in the dark about whether a room advertised in the newspaper is even available to members of their sex.
A federal appeals court recently held that Roommates.com could be sued for housing discrimination for making it easier for its customers to advertise their preference for roommates of a particular sex. The court did so despite Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law that was intended to immunize online businesses like Roommates.com from lawsuits over communications by their customers. In a footnote, the court left open the possibility that Roommates.com could raise a First Amendment defense to being sued under the housing-discrimination laws.
I explain here why Roommates.com should be shielded by the First Amendment from being sued in Fair Housing Council v. Roommates.com, and how such lawsuits actually harm victims of discrimination. Prior coverage of stupid “fair-housing” lawsuits can be found here.