Monday, April 29, 2013

Attorney General v. Desilets case brief

Attorney General v. Desilets case brief
636 N.E.2d 233

"Can a landlord deny an unmarried couple an apartment due to religious reasons?"

CASE SYNOPSIS: (P) attorney general sought review, by application for direct appellate review, the decision of a Massachusetts court, which granted, on cross-motions for summary judgment, the (D) landlords' motion for summary judgment.
The court denied the attorney general in his case for the landlords' violation of Massachusetts Statute when the landlord denied rental occupancy to a couple that was not married.

(D) landlords were the owners of apartment buildings.
The landlords, Roman Catholics, declined to consider leasing an apartment to an unmarried couple because they had a policy of not leasing to any person who intended to engage in conduct that violated their religious principles.
The landlords believed that they should not facilitate sinful conduct, which included fornication.
The attorney general began the action on behalf of the couple.
The lower court ruled that the landlords had violated §4(6) of the statute, but also ruled that application of the statute to the landlords was unconstitutional.

The court found that the case involved the tension between a statutory mandate that a landlord must not discriminate against unmarried couples in renting accommodations and the landlords' sincerely held religious beliefs that they should not facilitate what they regard as cohabitation that was sinful.
The court held that the landlords violated §4(6) of the statute, yet the court vacated the judgment and remanded the case because the Commonwealth was to be given the opportunity to demonstrate a compelling state interest in the statute's application, in view of its denying the landlords a statutory exemption.

The court vacated the judgment for the landlords and remanded the case to the lower court.
The court stated that neither party was entitled to summary judgment in this case.

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