Saturday, November 24, 2007

An appalling roommate law

A real estate question-and-answer column in the LA Times offers this information to a woman looking to advertise for a roommate: "The Fair Housing Act... makes it illegal for newspapers to publish an ad that indicates your preference for someone of a specific race, religion, national origin, disability, gender or familial status."

I can't quite believe I read that right.

This isn't a landlord looking for tenants. This is a woman looking for a roommate. And she's not allowed to advertise a preference for who she wants to live with?

Even if she wanted to advertise specifically for a green-polka-dotted neo-Nazi genius Branch Davidian divorced psychopath, it should not be the state's business to force her to consider any others! What happened to right of association? (Of course a newspaper may choose not to run such an ad based on its own policies; that's a different matter.)

But what's most unbelievable is that she can't express a preference for gender. Her ad must be open to men as well as women. Never mind that any modest woman would be deeply uncomfortable living with a man who's a complete stranger. Never mind that two unmarried people of the opposite sex living together is something that was once universally considered to be flat immoral. (Amazing to think, only about fifty years ago the practice was even outlawed in many places.) Of course it still violates the moral standards of a great many people. But that's just too bad-- the state now forces you to be open to it. Mustn't be biased.

Of course if she wants a female roommate she can politely decline any men who might answer the ad. But think of the needless trouble and stress this puts her through (and the waste of time for the men). It's all courtesy of lawmakers who surely were not in the fix of needing roommates themselves. I bet they felt very good about their open-minded tolerance as they voted to force others through these difficult hoops.

Well, that was a somewhat unenlightening rant, but I wanted to get it off my chest.

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