University of Hawaii Sued for Sexual-Orientation Discrimination

Earlier this month, USA Today reported that a University of Hawaii student had filed suit against the public university for housing dicrimination. He alleged that, although he and his partner had been granted permission previously to live in the university-subsidized family housing, that permission had been revoked because the state did not recognize same-sex marriage. The couple, therefore, did not meet the criteria necessary to qualify for family housing.

Laws that protect againt housing discrimination and employment discrimination are often passed in the same bill. But Hawaii is not one of the states that has set up its laws this way. Hawaii state law prohibits discrimination in employment decisions based on sexual orientation. It does not have a parallel law for housing discrimination, though.

As you may know, Delaware has neither. But it has not been for lack of trying. Senate Bill #141 has been proposed and passed in the State House of Representatives for several years in a row. It has been tabled each time and housed in the drawer of a legislator until it is proposed again the following year. The bill would amend the titles of the Delaware Code that deal with Employment Discrimination, Public Housing and Public Works, Equal Accommodations, and Insurance. In each of those areas, it is unlawful to use race, religion, national origin, gender, age, or other protected characteristics as the basis for granting or denying access to, for example, public housing or government contracts.

Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia include sexual orientation in their list of protected classes for the purposes of employment discrimination. In Delaware and Pennsylvania, public employers may not consider sexual orientation but there is no equivalent law for private employers. And neither Delaware nor Pennsylvania is one of the 15 states (including D.C.) that prohibit sexual orientation in its housing laws. Both Maryland and New Jersey are included among the states that prohibit consideration of sexual orientation both in housing and employment.

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