Freedom Association has come to mean no freedom of dissociation, at least not in Madison, Wisconsin. There a city statute barring discrimination in housing has been interpreted by the Madison Equal Opportunities Commission (MEOC) to apply to roommates. In other words, when Ann Hacklander and Maureen Rowe were told by their prospective roommate Cari Sprague that she was a lesbian, and decided (politely) not to room with her for that reason, they were breaking the law.
After Ms. Sprague complained to the city, the MEOC asked Hacklander and Rowe to come in and discuss the matter. In a 4-½ hour meeting, during which the two women were in tears. the MEOC pressured them to agree in principle to this proposed settlement: that between the two of them they would pay Sprague $1,500 in damages; that they would attend a two-hour “training class” conducted by a homosexual organization; that they would have their housing situation “monitored”—the word was not defined—for two years by the MEOC; and that they would write a letter of apology to Sprague. During this meeting the two women were not represented by a lawyer. When one of the women, just out of college and with a large college loan debt to repay, said the settlement would bankrupt her, the MEOC informed her that bankruptcy would not make any difference.
The Madison City Council president. Sue Bauman, while being a proponent of anti-discrimination legislation, thinks that the city housing law should not apply to roommate situations, and on September 19 the council voted 19 to 2 to amend the law accordingly. Mary Pierce of the MEOC, citing a confidentiality agreement, will not comment on the case at all. But as of this writing, according to Hacklander and Rowe’s lawyer, Bruce Davey, the MEOC is going ahead with its process, and taking the matter to its final stage—a public hearing before a hearing examiner. Presumably, with the City Council having clarified their language, with the precedent of the identical state law having been interpreted in their favor, and with several signs of duress evident in the way their case was handled by the MEOC, the two women have a good case. They will still be out their lawyer’s fee, however, and not content with her MEOC action Ms. Sprague has filed suit in Circuit Court. Ms. Hacklander and Ms. Rowe will also still be out their time and their distress.
This is where equity legislation will get you. In the interests of protecting homosexuals—and, incidentally, convicted murderers, whom (according to Mary Pierce) the two women also could not legally have turned away—the city of Madison has proposed a series of punishments that would violate the rights of even convicted felons on probation.
Madison is not just saying that homosexuality (and a murder conviction) should be tolerated. Madison’s Equal Opportunity Commission is saying that homosexuality (and a murder conviction) are such goods that they must be protected with every bit of energy the law will allow. Protecting this actual lesbian and this theoretical murderer must come even at the price of frightening, harassing, fining, and “re-educating” two ordinary, tax-paying citizens.
Ann Hacklander has said that she personally had no prejudice against lesbians, but that Ms. Rowe was uncomfortable with the idea of living with one, and so her roommate would hardly force it on her. After what Hacklander has gone through in the name of tolerance, does anyone think she is so friendly to the homosexual lobby now? (KD)