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Attorney General v. Desilets

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
636 N.E.2d 233 (1994)


Facts

Two brothers (defendants) owned an apartment building located in the State of Massachusetts. The brothers refused to rent an apartment to an unmarried couple, on the basis that doing so would violate the brothers’ religious principles. The couple filed a housing discrimination complaint with an anti-discrimination commission, claiming that the brothers’ denial violated G.L. c. 151B, § 4(6). The statute prohibits landlords from refusing to rent on the basis of marital status. Following the commission’s probable-cause finding, the couple sought a judicial determination in superior court. The Attorney General (plaintiff) then sued the brothers in superior court on the couple’s behalf. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. The judge granted only the brothers’ motion, on the basis that application of G.L. c. 151B, § 4(6) to the brothers would be unconstitutional. The Attorney General sought direct appellate review in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. The brothers asserted that applying G.L. c. 151B, § 4(6) to them violated their state and federal constitutional rights. The brothers also asserted that they were not violating the statute, because the conduct of intercourse, and not marital status, was the basis of the denial of housing to the couple.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Wilkins, J.)

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Dissent (O’Connor, J.)

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