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State Ex Rel. Sprague v. City of Madison

    Brief Fact Summary. Two women leased an apartment to housemates for rent. The two woman turned away Sprague based on her sexual orientation.

     

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Tenants who lease rooms to a housemate for profit are also required, like land-lords, to not engage in discriminatory practices in selecting housemates.

     

    Facts. Ann Hacklander-Ready leased a four bedroom apartment; she had permission from the owner to lease the other rooms to housemates to make up portions of the rent. One of those tenants was Maureen Rowe. The two girls placed ads looking for another roommate. Carol Sprague applied and the girls accepted her application from numerous applicants. At the time they offered the room they knew of her sexual orientation. Carol made a deposit for rent on May 4th 1989. The following day the two girls told Carol they were withdrawing their offer because they were not comfortable living with a person of her sexual orientation. Sprague filed a complaint with the Madison Equal Opportunity Commission who found in favor of Sprague. The girls appeal that decisi

     

    Issue. Whether laws that apply to landlords regarding non-discriminatory practices apply to tenants who lease rooms to housemates.

     

    Held. Yes. If a Tenant has a right to ownership, and a right to lease rooms to housemates, he or she is also held to the standards and laws that a landlord is. In the City of Madison there is a Madison Equal Opportunity Commission (MEOC). The MEOC issued a decision and order that stated discrimination based on sexual orientation is against this order. It applies to any person having a right of ownership or possession to transfer, sell, rent or lease any housing. This court found that housemates and rooms qualify as types of leasing agreements for housing. While the statute language of housing may possibly be ambiguous, the court could not find any ambiguity that would result in favor of Rowe and Hacklander-Ready.

     

    Dissent.  

     

    Discussion.  The respondents argue that it is unconstitutional to require the same laws be applied to housemates. However all supporting case laws only discuss issues of first amendment activity free from unwarranted governmental intrusion. That is not the case here we have a tenant refusing to rent to a woman based on sexual orientation.

     


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