12AD.3.5 California Legislature, 1963 Regular (General) Session Assembly Bill No. 1240
In 1963, William Byron Rumford introduced Assembly Bill 1240 in the California State Assembly. This legislation would come to be known as the Rumford Fair Housing Bill and would become influential and incredibly controversial. The proposed state law would force landowners and realtors to set aside any personal biases relating to the identity of potential renters and buyers. Equal access to housing would be granted to all people by the force of law. Owners could no longer discriminate against potential renters based on their identity, limiting the owners’ ability to rent or sell to whomever they chose. AB 1240 faced strong opposition, but it was eventually signed into law by a vote of 47 – 24.
What specific minority groups did AB 1240 seek to protect? How did the law intend to protect those groups from discrimination? In what ways were the rights of the majority limited by this legislation?
This source is meant to help students understand the ways that legislation aimed to counteract the negative impact discriminatory housing practices had on marginalized people. This source can help engage students in discussions around which races, colors, religions, national origins, or ancestries required the protection of this law. AB 1240 also describes the manner by which property owners denied people housing. Teachers can engage students in conversations about what the “facilities or services in connection” with buying or renting might be, and how those seeking to limit access to housing might go about denying them. The ability for owners to make “any written or oral inquiry concerning race, color, religion, national origin, or ancestry” is also legislated against in this bill. Teachers can also engage their students in a discussion of why that inquiry might be considered discriminatory.
AB 1240 ultimately limited the rights of property owners to discriminate against specific groups; however, teachers should present students with the opportunity to discuss whether one’s freedom to choose should be limited, even if that choice is rooted in bias or racism. Ask students to consider how this law helps consider the question, What are the dangers of majority rule?
CHAPTER 3. DISCRIMINATION PROHIBITED
35720. It shall be unlawful:
1. For the owner of any housing accommodation, other than a single-unit dwelling occupied in whole or in part by the owner as his residence, to
(a) Refuse to sell, rent or lease or otherwise to deny to or withhold from any person or group of persons such housing accommodation because of the race, color, religion, national origin, or ancestry of such person or persons.
(b) Discriminate against any person because of the race, color, religion, national origin, or ancestry of such person in the terms conditions or privileges of any such housing accommodations or in the furnishing of facilities or services in connection therewith.
(c) Make or to cause to be made any written or oral inquiry concerning the race, color, religion, national origin, or ancestry of such person seeking to purchase, rent, or lease any such housing accommodation for the purpose of violating any of the provisions of this section.