The US Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared divided over a civil rights case that could limit the scope of discrimination claimed under the landmark Fair Housing Act.
The oral argument that continued for at least an hour didn’t bring any clear verdict on whether there is a conservative majority on the nine-justice court which will be cutting back on what sort of conduct can result into housing discrimination litigation.
Most importantly, the dependably conservative Justice Antonin Scalia made some supporting comments over the argument made by the administration of US President Barack Obama and various civil rights groups in a defense of the wider interpretation of the act.
The country’s top court is looking into the civil rights case, considering whether the 1968 law of Fair Housing allows the claims on racialism or any other form of bias based on apparently neutral practices that may have a prejudiced effect. These are termed as “disparate impact” claims. There is no disagreement over the prohibition of law on openly discriminatory actions in the sale as well as rental of housing.
According to the civil rights advocates, narrowing the Fair Housing Act (FHA) to rule out disparate impact would make it lesser effective as a tool to fight the discrimination faced in the modern day, which is seldom explicit enough to be proved an intentional one. In spite of this, many times it takes form of policies that do not openly attack the race, but impose effect of perpetuating or worsening the impact of previous discrimination.
The civil rights case mainly concerns whether Texas violated the law by unreasonably awarding low-income housing tax credits to the developers, who have established their properties in poor and minority-dominated neighborhoods.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both of whom are conservatives, appeared more inclined toward narrowing the scope of FHA.
The civil rights groups are leaving no stone unturned to keep the issue out of the reach of the conservative-leaning high court. The case is being closely eyed by the insurance companies and the lenders.