Friday, February 10, 2006

When Worlds Collide: Free Speech vs. Civil Rights

Via the Volokh Conspiracy, a story in Chicago about so-called discriminatory advertising.

Basically, a fair housing group has sued the website Craiglist for posting advertisements that violate discrimination laws. Now keep in mind these advertisements are along the lines of personal ads- people posting roommate requests that specify race, religion, and gender.

Volokh has the legal analysis, here and here.

It's just sort of interesting to see that clearly "civil rights" protection can go too far. After all, who is possibly being harmed when individuals make their roommate selection preferences public? As was noted by David Bernstein, the ones who end up getting hurt the most, if such advertisements were to be banned, are minorities looking to live with other minorities. It's also interesting to note that the protection of "free speech" can never go too far. Sure, we may equivocate on what we consider to be speech, but once something is found to be speech, it's hard to find a rationale for making such speech illegal. Discrimination on the other hand, is clearly a far more thorny subject.


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