This case alleges that nine fraternities at Yale University are liable under the Fair Housing Act in connection with the same-sex membership practices of the fraternities. The district court dismissed the case on constitutional standing grounds, and the Court of Appeals affirms.
The case is McNeil v. Yale Chapter of Alpha Delta Phi International, a summary order issued on November 15. Plaintiffs alleged they were sexually assaulted and harassed at these fraternity houses, which only admit members on the basis of gender, that is, men. They are suing the fraternities and the landlords who own the fraternity houses. Since the fraternities are discriminatory organizations, plaintiffs claim, the landlords are violating the Fair Housing Act. In dismissing the case, the district court identified this deficiency in the case under Rule 12:
Plaintiffs' Fair Housing Act claim revolves around the denial of membership by fraternities. Under Plaintiffs' construction, a landlord would be responsible for addressing housing discrimination based on a rental agreement with tenants, tenants who belong to an organization with allegedly discriminatory membership practices. The predicate act for discrimination, therefore, is denial of membership; the separate act of denial of housing does not necessarily follow, because other factors could create the same circumstances.
As they admit, "Plaintiffs repeatedly sought membership in the Fraternities, which would have entitled them to housing benefits ... [b]y denying Plaintiffs membership, Defendant fraternities effectively denied them housing rights that would have been available to them but for their gender." At no point do Plaintiffs allege they sought to rent the same properties as the fraternities and were denied based on their gender.
The alleged injury here, the denial of housing, thus is not fairly traceable to the conduct of the landlords, but instead to the failure of the Fraternity Defendants to admit women. Here, the converse also is true. That is, the alleged denial of housing by the Fraternity Defendants is not linked to a policy regarding housing, which the landlords—not the Fraternity Defendants —control, but rather to the Fraternity Defendants' decision not to admit women. In other words, there is no direct effort to make housing unavailable to women.
The "fairly traceable" language derives from Supreme Court caselaw on standing. The Court of Appeals agrees with the district court, noting that plaintiffs did not allege they sought housing with a fraternity or expressed any interest in such housing. But the Court does allow plaintiffs an opportunity to amend the complaint to correct this pleading deficiency.