Equal Access

Civil rights laws provide that all persons have equal access to public places. For instance, a black family cannot be prohibited from renting an apartment on the basis of their race. A restaurant cannot refuse to serve Muslims based on nationality or religion.

  • Housing

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents of legal custodians, pregnant women and people securing custody of children under the age of 18) and handicap (disability).

Sidebar: Under the Fair Housing Act, sexual orientation is not a basis for discrimination-another form of discrimination must be present to assert a claim. However, many state and local laws prohibit discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation. Check your local ordinances.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development enforces the provisions of the Fair Housing Act through the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. For additional information, go to www.hud.gov. If you have been the subject of housing discrimination, you must file the complaint with HUD within 1 year of the incident. You have 2 years to file your own lawsuit in federal or state court.

Federal statutes requiring "open housing" apply to those individuals who own more than three houses and who do not use an agent, as well as apartment complexes and other public multifamily housing.

Sidebar: The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) prohibits local governments from adopting or enforcing land use regulations that discriminate against religious assemblies and institutions or which unjustifiably burden the exercise of religion.

My religion requires marriage between couples that are living together. Can I be forced to rent to an unmarried couple?

Yes. If a local ordinance prohibits discrimination in housing based on marital status, you must comply. Your right to the free exercise of your religion is not violated.

  • Retail Establishments

Public places must be open to everyone. Theaters, restaurants, sports stadiums, gas stations, stores, hotels and motels, theme parks and city recreational sites cannot discriminate in permitting access to their facilities. Private clubs and inns with less than six rooms may legally discriminate.

  • Transportation

Buses, trains, subways, streetcars and airplanes cannot deny access to an individual based on race, color, creed or national origin, subject to objective security measures.

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