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8 Out Of 11 Judges Agree: Roommates.com Is A Very Discriminating Service. Maybe Too Discriminating...

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In a decision that could have massive repercussions for Internet businesses who thrive by overcharging people for something they'll have better luck with on Craig's List, the 9th US Circuit Court has ruled that certain federal laws, specifically fair housing laws, do indeed apply to the internets:

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided Thursday that a website may be found liable for violating fair housing laws by matching roommates according to gender, sexual orientation and parenthood. ...

The judges said a site called Roommates.com may be brought to trial for possibly violating anti-discrimination laws because it requires users to provide information about gender, sexual orientation and whether they have children, and then uses the information to screen people for matches.

"A real estate broker may not inquire as to the race of a prospective buyer, and an employer may not inquire as to the religion of a prospective employee," Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for the majority. "If such questions are unlawful when posed face-to-face by telephone, they don't magically become lawful when asked electronically online."

Never mind the fact that a sitting US Federal Judge sarcastically used the word "magically" in an official decision - no, wait, mind it. It must be stated for the record that "Magical" has now been established as official legal jargon. Just in time, we might add, for arguments in favor of forcing intelligent design in American schools. But we digress.