WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court Thursday ruled that housing discrimination lawsuits can proceed without proof of intentional bias against minorities, endorsing a civil-rights era litigation tool that had faced tough scrutiny by the high court.
The surprise decision, by a 5-4 vote, held that disparate impact on minorities is sufficient to get a housing-discrimination claim into court. The state of Texas, whose housing department was fighting a fair-housing claim, contended that the Fair Housing Act of 1968 required that plaintiffs prove intentional discrimination, something much more difficult to show.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, traced the history of racial discrimination and housing discrimination that pervaded American cities through most of the 20th century, and the difficulty of reversing entrenched racial isolation.
“The court acknowledges the Fair Housing Act’s continuing role in moving the nation toward a more integrated society,” Justice Kennedy wrote, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.