ACLU Welcomes U.S. Department of Justice’s Support in Boca Raton Housing Discrimination Case
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
BOCA RATON, FL — The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in federal court today intervening in the city of Boca Raton’s unconstitutional discrimination against persons with disabilities. The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida’s Palm Beach Chapter, which filed suit on behalf of residents with disabilities in 2004, welcomed the DOJ’s support on this important civil liberties case.
“The ACLU is committed to fighting discrimination in all respects,” said ACLU cooperating attorney James Green of West Palm Beach. “Discrimination based on race, sex or in this case, disability, should not be tolerated and is being met with the full force of the ACLU and now, the U.S. Department of Justice.”
The city ordinance was designed to cast out certain persons with disabilities from residential communities, where they are living and recovering in nurturing environments.. City Attorney Diana Grub Frieser, one of various outspoken proponents of the discriminatory legislation, explained at a citycouncil meeting how the ordinance was intended to address not just licensed facilities but any residential use that houses persons in recovery in residential areas:
“This Ordinance as drafted was intentionally drafted, based on direction from this council, to broadly encompass both the statutory definitions [of a treatment facility] and more. And the reason I say that is as you will recall, when the statute was going through the legislative process at different times it had a much broader scope. And what was adopted, in fact, had a narrower scope excluding certain facilities that the city had concerns about and wanted to address, because we believe that they had similar adverse impacts in our residential areas. And that’s why it was drafted broader.”
The Boca Raton City Commission originally passed the ordinance in May 2002 in response to mounting public pressure from residents to remove the drug and alcohol recovery housing from residential neighborhoods. The Boca House and Awakenings are housing providers and the residents who live there argue the ordinance was motivated by public prejudice against persons in recovery.
“It takes a lot of courage for anyone — particularly people in recovery — to stand up to city hall, and I am very proud of our clients for doing so,” Green said. “They are particularly gratified that the U.S. Department of Justice has weighed in on their behalf.”
The ACLU’s lawsuit, Jeffrey O. et al. v. City of Boca Raton, was filed in 2004 and is awaiting trial. The complaint is available at:
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