Tuesday, June 21, 2011
The Catholic University of America generated much press last week when its president announced that, beginning next year, it would transition to single-sex only housing. Considering that such a move was previously unheard-of, the attention wasn’t shocking.
What may have caught Catholic officials more off-guard is the intent-to-sue notice they were served with this week.
Completely eliminating coeducational dorms would violate the District of Columbia’s Human Rights Act, says John F. Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University who is known for public interest suits of this nature. That statute prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and commercial space, and public accommodations on the basis of sex and other factors like race, religion and marital status. ...
Banzhaf likens Catholic’s move to a “separate but equal” scenario. “Suppose a university decided that there would be less racial tension if all the blacks were in a black dorm, all the whites were in a white dorm,” Banzhaf said. “Each one is, quote, getting their own dormitory, and maybe some of them would be happier that way. But surely no one would suggest that it’s lawful.” The statute does not require that a certain population be disadvantaged for an action to be illegal; the simple act of segregating the genders is enough, Banzhaf said.