UC Law Journal


John C. Beattie


In the late 1970s, state legislatures began to amend their antidiscrimination laws to include a prohibition against marital status discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, and credit transactions. Since then, state courts have developed two opposing interpretations of the scope of protection provided by these laws.

This Note examines how prohibitions against marital status discrimination may be used to protect unmarried couples seeking benefits available to married couples. First, the Note surveys the case law on marital status discrimination and explains how the opposing interpretations presently are applied to housing and employment policies. The author then argues that the law of marital status discrimination has been cut away from its roots in traditional race and gender discrimination analysis, and consequently is inconsistent with both the intent of state legislatures and the clear language of the statutes. Finally, this Note proposes a test for marital status discrimination that is consistent with established discrimination jurisprudence. Under the proposed test, unmarried couples and individuals, including gays and lesbians, would have significant protection against policies that benefit only married individuals.

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