Protesters planned to gather today at a condominium complex near Florida's Tampa Bay area that only rents to single people or married husbands and wives – a policy that some realtors attack as discriminatory, but may be completely legal.
"Word is spreading on social network websites that protesters are expected today at Casa Di Amici, the condominium complex in Venice that has barred gay and other unmarried couples from living there," the local Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.
A Tampa realtor told The Christian Post on Wednesday that Florida law prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of "family status," but found no local statute defining the term to enforce it.
Openly lesbian realtor Julia Nowak said she "could not believe" what she was reading. "It basically says you have to be either a single person or a husband and wife to purchase a unit here," she told local station 10 News, which broke the story last week. She denounced the policy as "anti-gay."
Nowak also said, "I hope there is public outrage [that] people will discriminate in this day and age."
"There's nothing in federal or state law that this violated," Sarasota attorney Kevin Wells, whose law practice works with 475 condominium and homeowners' associations in Southwest Florida, told the Herald-Tribune. "But it does prohibit a whole class of people," he noted, "from owning a condominium.
Wells explained that, while federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of "number of people in a family," this "family status" statute does not extend to sexual orientation or marital status.
Attorney Mary Greenwood called the policy "discriminatory," but told 10 News that it contained nothing illegal. While the City of Venice has a domestic partnership ordinance that might have allowed realtors like Nowak to contest the policy, the condos actually reside in unincorporated Sarasota County, which lacks such a law.
Casa Di Amici has not explained why it adopted the new policy in July, and the Herald-Tribune reported that "it is unclear what prompted the association's board to change its rules."
But Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., explained the potential reasons behind such a policy decision.
Acknowledging the "moral objection" that Biblical Christianity brings against couples "living in sin," Sprigg also mentioned the business reasons why this policy might be a good idea, in a Wednesday interview with CP.
Casa Di Amici "may have determined from experience or research that married couples make better tenants or owners than unmarried couples," the scholar explained. "Certainly the relationships are less stable if they are not a marriage between a man and a woman."
Sprigg warned against extending the "protected categories" in non-discrimination laws, and defended the liberty of companies to choose their own customers. "That's something that should be left to the free market to determine and individual companies should be able to make their own choice on that," he argued.
Casa Di Amici did not return multiple requests for comment from The Christian Post.