We feel this is open to question – especially after talking with a former U.S. senator who was in office when the measure was passed.
Non-segregation of living quarters for male and female students may have been in the minds of some, but not must lawmakers, in the opinion of ex-Sen. Wallace F. Bennett (R-Utah). “You have to pass laws in general terms,” he noted, “then the department writes the regulations, and the regulation writers sometimes get over-zealous and apply the most technical interpretations.”
It seems to us the interpreters of the fair housing act may have gone to extremes in the sensitive area of student housing. Justice department representatives have threatened a civil suit against Brigham Young University and 36 landlords of housing complexes approved for ‘Y’ off-campus housing, to require them to cease having separate or segregated housing for men and women.
However, they have offered to delay filing the suit for about a month “to afford all defendants an opportunity to enter into a consent decree to be filed simultaneously with the complaint.” Negotiations are proposed for working out an understanding.
BYU President Dallin H. Oaks has said the university will vigorously defend its position on separate housing for men and women. “BYU is not supported by taxes and it uses no government funds to build or administer its housing or to enforce its policies. We simply insist on our constitutional right to teach and to require our students to live high moral standards, and to foster housing patterns supportive of that effort.”
The Herald cannot see how BYU’s policy of separate housing for men and women can be interpreted as harmful, as long as there is ample housing of acceptable quality in the community for people of both sexes. It seems to us forced integration of housing could cause more problems than it would solve – even aside from the overtones of the government pressuming to dictate to a private university a lifestyle and standards the institution does not desire.
It’s surprising sometimes how far the long arm of bureaucratic regulation will reach. To pursue the housing suit against BYU and the 36 landlords seems to us a waste of taxpayers’ money.
In the long run, should the courts back the interpretation of the justice department, then we think Congress ought to take another look at the housing law. If necessary, our Utah delegates should sponsor amendments to the act to keep its meaning and enforcement on a common sense basis and quash over-zealous and overly-technical interpretations.