United States' Fair Housing Act Prohibits Discrimination Against Domestic Violence Victims
Friday, January 6, 2006 2:15 PM

The U.S. District Court for Vermont, in its ruling on cross motions for summary judgment in the case of Bouley v. Young-Sabourin, recently ruled that the Fair Housing Act prohibits a landlord from evicting a woman because she was battered. The judge based the ruling on the fact that the victims of domestic violence are usually women and that throwing them out of their home for being abused constitutes gender-based discrimination, which women are protected against under the Act.

Quinn Bouley was the plaintiff in the Vermont case. Ms. Bouley called the police after being attacked by her husband. She obtained a restraining order and filed criminal charges against him. Soon after the attack however, her landlord visited her to discuss the attack. The visit was followed by an eviction notice in which the landlord, Ms. Young-Sabourin, noted her fear that the violence would continue. Ms. Bouley filed suit, alleging that her landlord discriminated against her because she did not act in a "stereotypically 'feminine' manner." This is a type of gender discrimination that the Supreme Court has already held to be unlawful. The U.S. District Court agreed that the eviction was based on unlawful gender discrimination. Soon after its decision was released, the parties settled.

This is a very important decision for domestic violence victims. The Department of Justice indicates that "women living in rental housing experience intimate partner violence at three times the rate of women who own their homes." According to the ACLU these victims are less likely to report abuse because they are fully aware that if the landlord finds out about the violence, they may end up homeless. The decision from this case paves the way to eliminating this double victimization. It provides protection for women who are strong enough to stand up to their abusers and helps to keep "their families safe." The ACLU, which wrote an amicus brief on behalf of Ms. Bouley, believes that "the principle set out in the judge's ruling should be applicable to other areas of the law" as well.

Compiled from:
Federal Law Protects Battered Women From Housing Discrimination, Court Rules, ACLU, 1 April 2005.
ACLU Hails Ruling That Fair Housing Act Prohibits Discrimination Against Victims of Domestic Violence, ACLU, 18 April 2005.