Tuesday, December 4, 2018
The Fifth Circuit ruled that plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge a Mississippi town's decision to fly the state flag over city hall as a violation of the Fair Housing Act. The ruling ends the case.
The plaintiffs in Mississippi Rising Coalition v. City of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, challenged a city council resolution requiring the state flag to be flown over city hall and other municipal buildings. They claimed that flying the flag, which includes the Confederate battle flag, amounted to "racial steering" in violation of the FHA.
But the Fifth Circuit ruled that they lacked both Article III and statutory standing. As to Article III, the court simply pointed to a 2017 ruling, Moore v. Bryant, also denying standing to plaintiffs challenging the state flag, but under equal protection: "That Plaintiff alleges that he personally and deeply feels the impact of Mississippi's state flag, however sincere those allegations are, is irrelevant to . . . standing analysis unless Plaintiff alleges discriminatory treatment." The court said that "[i]f exposure to a flag does not injure a plaintiff for equal protection purposes, exposure to the same flag does not injure a plaintiff for FHA purposes either."
As to statutory standing under the FHA, the court said that flying the flag is not a "discriminatory housing practice," and that the plaintiffs therefore weren't "aggrieved persons" under the Act.