Federal judge blocks Oregon ban on real estate ‘love letters’

A A federal judge has temporarily blocked an Oregon law, the first of its kind, that effectively banned personal letters written by homebuyers to homesellers.

District Judge Marco Hernandez ruled the law, which took effect earlier this year, violates the First Amendment by restricting free speech, though he called the goal of the law “laudable”. the law to end discrimination in home ownership.

The Democratic-controlled state legislature introduced the legislation early last year, and it was signed into law by Governor Kate Brown in June. Lawmakers backing the legislation wanted to prevent potential buyers from writing ‘love letters’ trying to sway sellers, as they claimed sellers could make decisions based on factors such as race, gender or race. sexual orientation.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian public interest law firm, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on behalf of Total Real Estate Group, arguing that the law violated the First Amendment. The group argued that lawmakers had provided no concrete evidence that the use of “love letters” contributed to housing discrimination and argued that there are already laws in place that combat such discrimination.

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“Today’s ruling preserves the ability for homebuyers to speak freely to sellers and explain why their offers to purchase should prevail,” said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Daniel Ortner. . “Love letters communicate information that helps sellers select the best deal. The state cannot ban important speech because someone might abuse it.”

Oregon‘s overly broad speech restriction is clearly not warranted, and today’s decision is a major victory for free speech and economic opportunity,” he added.

Supporters of the legislation argued that it was not a violation of free speech. The legislation’s main sponsor, Rep. Mark Meek, a realtor by trade, told FOX 12 that the legislation has been conceived to reduce implicit biases in the home buying process.

“The only way I’ve seen, and a way to virtually and very simply eliminate this practice, is to simply not allow these letters,” Meek, a Democrat, told FOX 12. on freedom of speech, a buyer can still write the letter, but the seller’s agent is no longer required to pass on this information.

The legislation was passed unanimously by the State House and Senate on a majority partisan vote, according to Oregon Live.

Hernandez said in his 29 page review and a preliminary injunction that while Oregon “has a long and abhorrent history of racial discrimination in property and housing,” plaintiff “is likely to succeed on the merits of his First Amendment claim because the law is too inclusive and cannot survive an interim review”.

He said the plaintiffs have shown that many of the “love letters” in question contain a significant amount of innocuous information that goes beyond references to a buyer’s personal characteristics.

“A few examples from the love letters in evidence are: expressing a desire to live permanently in the area, explaining the unusual arrangements of the offer, discussing the love of gardening and the way the house is well suited for growing plants, admiring the architectural style of the house and explaining why a certain repair is important to the potential buyer,” Hernandez said in his opinion.

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the Washington Examiner contacted the Oregon Department of Justice to comment on the decision.

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