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Attorney General v. Desilets

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendants two religious brothers who owned an apartment building refused to rent an apartment to an unmarried couple.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Defendants two religious brothers who owned an apartment building refused to rent an apartment to an unmarried couple.

    Facts.

    Defendants two religious brothers who owned an apartment building refused to rent an apartment to an unmarried couple. The unmarried couple filed a housing discrimination complaint with an anti-discrimination commission. Plaintiff the Attorney General sued the defendants on the couple’s behalf. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. The judge granted only the defendants. Plaintiff sought direct appellate review in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

    Issue.

    If a state’s interest in preventing housing discrimination against unmarried couples outweighs the landlord’s right to freely exercise his religion, can the landlord deny housing to the unmarried couple.

    Held.

    No.

    Dissent.

    The court should affirm the summary judgment for the defendants. There are no facts that justifies forcing the brothers to choose between their religious beliefs and their business practices.

    Discussion.

    In this case, the state must show that it has a compelling interest in eliminating marital-status discrimination in housing. Discrimination against unmarried couples is not constitutionally prohibited in Massachusetts.


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