Civil rights groups and anti-poverty advocates are raising serious concerns after the U.S. Supreme Court hear orals arguments in case challenging the federal Fair Housing Act on Wednesday. The ultimate ruling in the case could have profound implications for those who benefit from the landmark legislation signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968, just days after the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr..
On Wednesday the court heard oral arguments in the case of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, which challenges a key aspect of the Fair Housing Act known as the “disparate impact.”
In a blog post offering historical and legal context for the FHA and the case before the court, director of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund Leslie Proll explained:
What’s been seen as most striking about the case so far, however, is the fact that the nation’s top court took the case at all.
As Pro Publica reports:
As was done in the case of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, critics of the Supreme Court’s decision to take up the suit are speculating, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reported during a segment on the issue on Wednesday, “that the Robert’s went out of their way to take this case specifically so they can gut the Fairing House Act.”
In addition to the NAACP, other civil rights groups are warning that a dismantling of the law by the Supreme Court would have devastating impacts.
“The Fair Housing Act is one of our nation’s bedrock civil rights laws and any rollback to its protections would be disastrous for our nation’s neighborhoods and communities,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in a statement released following oral arguments.
“It defies logic for the Court to take a case challenging a central component of the Fair Housing Act, given the law’s transformative power over generations and the widespread bipartisan consensus that passed it in 1968, expanded it in 1988, and validated it in 11 federal circuit courts,” Henderson continued. “With residential segregation on the rise, a strong Fair Housing Act is as important now as it has been in the past. Robust and effective fair housing laws are a vital tool for ensuring equal opportunity. That’s why the Court should reject any attempt to weaken vital housing protections for families and communities.”
Dennis Parker, director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, said the Fair Housing Act remains essential in combating ongoing discrimination found throughout the nation’s housing and lending market.
“A bipartisan Congress passed this law because it recognized that housing discrimination and segregation were scourges upon this country,” Parker said. “Effects of this discrimination are still acutely felt in communities across America. The problem has not been eradicated and we continue to need all the tools to fight it.”