Following the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the doctrine of disparate impact under the Fair Housing Act, which allows courts to hold defendants liable for the discriminatory effects of its actions, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee, praised the decision.
The standard was challenged under the case entitled Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, et al. v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., et al. For years, disparate impact has been used to end discriminatory practices that create barriers to housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap.
Waters released the following statement:
“Today, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision to preserve a key tool to ensuring all Americans have an opportunity to achieve the American Dream. By upholding the disparate impact standard under the Fair Housing Act, those discriminating against groups of people in housing and lending will continue to be held accountable by the Departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development. Today, the Court affirmed the intent of Congress, the decisions of every federal circuit court, and made clear that disparate impact is settled law.
I’m pleased that in their decision, the justices recognized the importance of disparate impact liability in uncovering discriminatory intent, and noted that appropriate safeguards in the use of disparate impact already exist, such as requiring plaintiffs to demonstrate causality between the defendant’s practices and its adverse effects.
The disparate impact standard is absolutely essential to providing for fair housing throughout our nation. Its decades-long use to weed out discriminatory practices that create barriers to housing is critically important for minority individuals and communities. But our work is not finished. In Congress, we must continue to fight strongly to protect disparate impact, as Republicans have consistently sought to undermine law enforcement’s ability to combat discrimination in our housing and lending markets.”
Waters has been a champion of the disparate impact standard, and a Congressional leader in urging the Court to uphold the law.
In 2014, she joined two civil rights groups to bring together a bipartisan coalition of 23 former and current Members of Congress to sign onto a congressional amicus brief in support of the disparate impact standard.
Importantly, in its decision, the Court acknowledged that the vestiges of racial segregation remain today, and that historically, governmental support was used to encourage the separation of the races in various ways. In addition, the justices confirmed that disparate impact is a central tenet of the Fair Housing Act’s continuing role in moving the nation toward a more integrated society. Finally, the Court underscored that nothing in their decision should be construed to discourage investment to revitalize dilapidated neighborhoods.