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Reitman v. Mulkey

Citation. 387 U.S. 369, 87 S. Ct. 1627, 18 L. Ed. 2d 830, 1967 U.S.
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Brief Fact Summary.

The state of California passed Proposition 14 preventing the government from interfering in any case of private discrimination as it related to the ownership or possession of property. The Respondents, Mr. and Mrs. Mulkey (Respondents), sued the Petitioner, Reitman (Petitioner), under sections 51 and 52 of the California code for refusing to rent them an apartment due to their race.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

State action will exist when the purpose of state legislation is to encourage racial discrimination.


The Respondents tried to rent an apartment and were rejected by the Petitioner, a private owner because of their race. At the time the Respondents attempted to rent the apartment, Section:Section:51 and 52 of the California Civil Code provided that all persons are free and equal and are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishment of every kind whatsoever. Pursuant to these statutory provisions, the Respondents sought injunctive relief and damages against the Petitioner.
Proposition 14 was passed by California voters after the Respondents filed their complaint against the Petitioner. Proposition 14 states that neither the state of California nor its agencies would interfere with a private person’s choice to discriminate against others when selling or leasing property.
The intent of Proposition 14 was to nullify previous laws that protected the rights of racial minorities to own and possess property.
The Petitioner moved for summary judgment and argued that Proposition 14 had rendered Section:Section:51 and 52 of the California Civil Code null and void. The trial court granted the Petitioner’s summary judgment motion. The California Supreme Court held that Proposition 14 was invalid because it denied equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution).


Did Proposition 14 invalidly involve the state in racial discriminations in the housing market?


Yes. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) affirms the holding of the California Supreme Court.
This provision would involve the state in private racial discriminations to an unconstitutional degree. The right to discriminate was now immune from state regulation at any level and was, therefore, endorsed by the state.
The Supreme Court observed that California, by abandoning its open housing statutes in favor of a supposed position of neutrality, the state has encouraged private discrimination.


Proposition 14 does not foster discrimination, as it is neutral on its face. The judiciary should not take it upon itself to strike down a rule that was passed by the voters without “pervasive evidence of an invidious purpose or effect.” The majority’s decision is constitutionally unsound.


This legislation went beyond just repealing existing anti-discrimination laws. The effect was to make private housing discrimination untouchable by the state government. As a result, the state is actually encouraging such activity to take p

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