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Don't Ask, Can Tell: Sexual Orientation Screening On the Web

Don't Ask, Can Tell: Sexual Orientation Screening On the Web cannot require users looking for roommates to list their sexual orientation. A federal appeals court just ruled that antidiscrimination rules apply to the Internet.

The panel ruled 8-3 that inquiring electronically about sexual orientation is no different than asking someone in person or over the phone whether they are black or Jewish.

Users can offer additional information, including sexual orientation, but the current practice is illegal because "Roommate makes answering the discriminatory questions a condition of doing business." The ruling does not stop users from asking potential roommates about their sexual orientation.

The dissenting judges thought that the "expansion of liability for Internet service providers threatens to chill the robust development of the Internet." Basically — we better not regulate the Internet, or it will stop growing.

Since the Fair Housing Act prohibits such screening in person or over the phone, does it make sense that it also applies to the Internet?


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CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
now adays, you can just google, facebook, or myspace someone who is potentially a roomate to figure out who or what they are.
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
Thanks Rem! Boy am I glad I don't have to live with roomates anymore!!
remedios remedios 9 years
Oops.. I cut a little too much out.. It's not the part that went to what we were talking about, but here's all of (c)(1): (1) any single-family house sold or rented by an owner: Provided, That such private individual owner does not own more than three such single-family houses at any one time: Provided further, That in the case of the sale of any such single-family house by a private individual owner not residing in such house at the time of such sale or who was not the most recent resident of such house prior to such sale, the exemption granted by this subsection shall apply only with respect to one such sale within any twenty-four month period: Provided further, That such bona fide private individual owner does not own any interest in, nor is there owned or reserved on his behalf, under any express or voluntary agreement, title to or any right to all or a portion of the proceeds from the sale or rental of, more than three such single-family houses at any one time: Provided further, That after December 31, 1969, the sale or rental of any such single-family house shall be excepted from the application of this subchapter only if such house is sold or rented (A) without the use in any manner of the sales or rental facilities or the sales or rental services of any real estate broker, agent, or salesman, or of such facilities or services of any person in the business of selling or renting dwellings, or of any employee or agent of any such broker, agent, salesman, or person and (B) without the publication, posting or mailing, after notice, of any advertisement or written notice in violation of section 804(c) of this title; but nothing in this proviso shall prohibit the use of attorneys, escrow agents, abstractors, title companies, and other such professional assistance as necessary to perfect or transfer the title,
remedios remedios 9 years
Oh good point... I was thinking just roommate v. landlord, not both. I'm looking at the fed statute right now - (b)Nothing in section 804 of this title (other than subsection (c)) shall apply to-- (1) any single-family house sold or rented by an owner ... or (2)rooms or units in dwellings containing living quarters occupied or intended to be occupied by no more than four families living independently of each other, if the owner actually maintains and occupies one of such living quarters as his residence. --- I cut out a bunch, but this should be enough. Looks like it doesn't apply if it's just your own home.
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
Thats what I mean, so if you own the home but you are looking for a roomate, are you considered a landlord or a roomate?
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Well in some cases remedios land lords and roommates are one in the same. I just realized I took this article from the wrong perspective myself. Personally I really wouldn't give to flies if a room mate asked me because part of finding the right room mate is finding someone that you're compatible with. I don't want to move in with someone that is going to have a problem with my lifestyle and then be in a hostile living situation. If them asking me helps to prevent that than I guess it’s a good thing. However, a land lord who's deciding who they want living in their house or apartment should not be able to ask.
remedios remedios 9 years
Do you all think there's a difference if we're talking landlord/tenant versus roommate situations? My initial reaction is absolutely, but am I just jumping the gun here? A landlord is only getting involved in an economic venture. She does not have to deal with one's habits, etc., so long as the house is kept well and the rent is paid. But roommates have to actually live with that other person. I'm curious if others think there's no real difference in approach.
remedios remedios 9 years
cabaker27 - I'm with you on the financial thing too. It also angers me when I'm getting car insurance and they want to look at my credit report. No... look at my driving record, thank you. That's all you need to know. I saw a house once where the landlord said he wouldn't rent to guys with long hair. Apparently long hair automatically means they'll destroy the place. Weird.
angelfromlsu angelfromlsu 9 years
When I was in college, I didn't want to live with any straight men or lesbian women. I never thought that was an issue. While I have lots of friends on both ends of the spectrum, I would never call my actions homophobic.
Matdredalia Matdredalia 9 years
LOL, nice hypnotic. I could technically say that my roomy is from England as well, 'cept that he's actually my husband XD
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
LOL, o.k. well at the moment I'm very happy with my I.A. roomy from England. She says she's moving back at the end of the year though.
Matdredalia Matdredalia 9 years
hypnotic - I would *SO* sign up to be roomies with you in a heartbeat :) However, I like your method. I, too, would prefer to disclose my information, but see, that's what I like about this ruling. It gives people a choice.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Who me?
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
I hope you're lovin all this flattery I'm tossin your way!! :)
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
And who wouldn't want to come to you??? ;)
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Damn don't ya'll rest on Sunday! LOL! Well as one of the resident self outed, I vote for can't ask. In my opinion discussing a lease agreement falls under (California) fair housing laws. After reading some of the reasoning above such as "threatens to chill the robust development of the Internet, “Basically — we better not regulate the Internet, or it will stop growing.", places economic development over human rights. Oh I forgot, what's new. When searching for roommates in the past I have always used and I don't even bother looking at the postings. I place an ad in the (searching for) and give a full disclosure of my personality, job, week & weekend routine and lifestyle. Within an hour I have at least two dozen responses. I just let them come to me.
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
Jill, I think its tenants finding tenants... But what if you own the place? Are you a landlord or a tenant? So if you want to be choosy with your roomate, but you own the place, does that mean you can be sued under the Fair Housing Act?
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
I'm sure you're right about homophobic people, but I'm just making the case that, again, just about anything can be considered discrimination. Honestly I'm still all riled up about the financial thing!!! grrr!!! :)
Jillness Jillness 9 years this about landlord/tenants...or about tenants finding other tenants? If it is a landlord asking a potential tenant, then no, I don't think they should be able to ask at all.
Jillness Jillness 9 years
You can ask a potential roommate if they are a smoker, right? I think choosing a roommate is such a unique isn't like you are hiring them and are their superior or supervisor. If you can ask things like do you play loud music, do you stay up late, do you have pets...those would be inappropriate for a job interview but perfectly acceptable for a potential roommate, IMO. I am completely against discrimination against the BGLAD community, but I think it might be a safety hazard to prevent people with serious issues from screening their roommates throughly.
Matdredalia Matdredalia 9 years
cabaker27 - Trust me, if they're homophobic, they wouldn't *want* to live with me. I would still rent to them if they understood that this is who I am and I'm not about to change. However, chances are, after me explaining that I'm bi and most of my friends are gay, they're more than likely going to say "Thanks, but no thanks" or something worse. Perfect example: My best friend was going to move in to an apartment with three other girls. Two of them were friends, the other she was sort-of friends with, but not really. The third girl mentioned to her parents that my friend was a lesbian, and her parents went behind her back and wrote a letter to my friend saying that if she moved in, they would force their daughter to move out (the girls parents were paying her rent). In general, homophobic people tend to steer clear of gay people, ya' know, part of the territory =P
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
I agree that its good that they can ask these questions, but it would be a lot easier if they were required to answer... but whatever, I'm sure its going to be a question that gets asked so I suppose it doesn't matter. I wonder if they used the Craiglists example in the case, because I know they had an issue with the Fair Housing Act a while back.
Matdredalia Matdredalia 9 years
cabaker27 - I agree, personal responsibility has deteriorated, drastically, and it's a huge problem in our society. As for the roommate having the right to ask about the prospective room mates sexual orientation: That is, in my opinion, the best part of the ruling. The roommates ARE allowed to ask that question. However, the site itself is not allowed to require them to answer that.
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
But if you don't rent to someone because they are homophobic, isn't that discriminatory?
Matdredalia Matdredalia 9 years
And since it looks like the comment I made about an hour and a half ago isn't going to get posted any time soon due to my use of a certain word....I'm doing a quick repost: "Personally, I think the fact that it doesn't require you to state your orientation, but that users are still allowed to ask, or give the information if they desire is the best part of this ruling. Now, I wouldn't want to live with someone who was homophobic because, for me, it would be hell (I'm bi). I have no problems making compromises about the bathroom, the toaster, or the furniture arrangements, but when it comes to me being me, I'm not moving an inch. Which is why, before bunking with anyone, I would take the initiative and ask the person if they had any sort of prejudices or types of people they just could not stand. I'd also ask them if they had problems with things like androgyny and cross-dressing, because while I usually only go towards the "light butch" or androgynous look, most of my friends are "gay from a mile away". However, the point is that in this case, you have a choice whether to come out, or not. That is my biggest problem with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". Our servicemen and servicewomen can't come out, even if they want to. And I'm sorry, but when you're being shipped out to serve your country, you shouldn't have to stand there and shake your partner's hand as if they're just a friend and force yourself not to cry for fear you'll be discharged. When you're proudly serving your country, the last thing you should have to worry about is hiding who you are."
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