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Smith v. Fair Employment & Housing Comm'n

913 P.2d 909 (Cal. 1996)

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Smith v. Fair Employment & Housing Comm'n

Supreme Court of California

913 P.2d 909 (Cal. 1996)

Facts

Evelyn Smith (plaintiff) owns and rents out several apartments. Due to her religious belief that sex outside marriage is sinful, she refuses to rent her apartments to unmarried couples. Gail Randall and Kenneth Phillips, an unmarried couple, leased an apartment from Smith after telling her that they were married. Before occupying the apartment, Phillips told Smith that they were unmarried. She then refused to rent the apartment to them and returned their deposit. Randall and Phillips filed complaints against Smith with the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission (defendant), claiming that she had violated California statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of marital status by owners of housing accommodations. The Commission determined that Smith had violated the law, and Smith sought judicial review. She claimed that she discriminated against the couple because of their extramarital sexual intercourse and not because of their marital status. She also claimed that the anti-discrimination law violated her state and federal constitutional rights to free exercise of religion. The California Court of Appeal reversed the Commission’s decision, and the state supreme court granted review.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Werdegar, J.)

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