Due to rising housing costs, living with roommates well into your 30s is a reality for many people living in the United States. What rights do you have when choosing a person to cohabitate with? For example, is citing "no Trump supporters" in your roommate ad intolerant? The answer to this question largely hinges on this very basic fact: Rejecting bigotry is not intolerant. Furthermore, deciding to ensure that your home is a safe space is your basic human right, and although you'll want to check the laws of your specific state and city, choosing a roommate who doesn't support the restrictive politics of Donald Trump is generally not against the law. “I don’t see anything illegal about it,” Sheila C. Salmon, a Washington lawyer who specializes in housing law, told the New York Times. “It’s like saying you don’t want any nonsmokers.”
Sahar Kian, a 23-year-old woman based in Washington, D.C., has recently received attention after her Craigslist ad for a roommate who does not support Trump was picked up by the media — but Kian, who appeared on CNN to defend her advertisement, isn't the only person to add this clause to her criteria for a roommate. The New York Times reported that people have been screening roommates based on Trump support on Twitter, Reddit and Craigslist, and in Facebook groups since last fall.
Again, you'll want to check your state's specific laws, but a New York real estate professional who spoke with Bustle said that anyone looking for someone to live in an apartment and pay rent, whether it be a landlord looking for a tenant or a tenant looking for a roommate, cannot discriminate against race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin under the Fair Housing Act, of the 1968 Civil Rights Act. However, it's perfectly legal to reject a roommate based on political views.
Furthermore, the New York City Administrative Code states that one cannot discriminate against gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, partnership status, alienage, or citizenship status, any lawful source of income, or people with children. Check your city or state laws for any variation on the Fair Housing Act.
Here are three reasons it's OK to request a roommate who does not support Trump.
Rejecting Bigotry Is Not Intolerant
During a recent appearance on CNN, Kian rejected allegations that she was being intolerant.
"Look at me, I’m brown. I’m a woman. I am somebody who is heavily reliant on Obama’s pre-existing condition clause,” Kian, who has American and Iranian citizenship and was raised Muslim, told CNN host Michael Smerconish.
While intolerance is defined as an unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one's own, the key here is that rejecting bigotry is not intolerant.
It's easy for me to understand that for Kian, living with a person — and in this case a stranger who answers an ad on the internet — who supports Trump could jeopardize her feelings of safety and security in her home. This is not a case of Republican versus Democrat. This is a case of letting someone into your home who supports a leader who has publicly said disparaging things about women and people with disabilities. A leader who repeatedly referred to a "Muslim ban" during his campaign and who has attempted to put into place a temporary travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries. A leader who has rescinded protections for transgender children, and whose administration wants to take away healthcare that millions of people (including me) rely on.
Even if a potential roommate claimed they did not vote for Trump based his promises to restrict human rights for millions, but rather because they believed he would create jobs, by helping to elect him, they passively condone his behavior. That's not OK. So while this potential roommate may claim they are not xenophobic, homophobic, or racist, the fact remains that they support a man whose policies are all of these things.
As Edmund Burke said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Believing that it's OK to stand by while millions of people lose their basic human rights because you might personally gain something is short-sighted, selfish, and downright scary. This is about human rights. Period. Everything else is secondary.
Everyone Deserves to Feel Safe In Their Home
Personally, I would not date a Trump supporter, and I certainly would not choose to live with one. Living with people is hard enough. There are disagreements over how to decorate, when to clean, having significant others spend the night, and the list goes on.
If you can successfully navigate all of these challenges, you might enjoy a peaceful living situation. But living with someone who doesn't share your values that human rights apply to everyone can make you feel unsafe, and therefore be detrimental to your mental, and emotional health.
Of course, the best case scenario may often be to live with someone you already know (although not always), but if you move to a new city that's not always possible. I have had more than a dozen roommates since I was 21, and I have lived with strangers more than five times with varying degrees of success, which is why vetting potential roommates is important.
It's one thing for your roommate to steal your food, throw a big party when you're out of town and "forget" to clean up, or borrow something without asking. It's another for that person to not support your basic human rights.
You Have Rights, Exercise Them
My roommate is not a U.S. citizen (she has a green card), but if she were, she would not have voted for Trump. She works for an organization that supports human rights and defends imprisoned journalists around the world. We share the same values, and we were friends before we moved in together. Because she is also on the lease, if she suddenly and inexplicably woke up tomorrow a Trump supporter, I could not legally ask her to leave the house.
However, if I were the primary lease holder (or home owner), and I was looking for a roommate to live with me, it would be up to me to decide who I want to live in my home as long as I adhered to the Fair Housing Act. I would not choose a drug user, a person who wants to put a big TV in my living room, someone who does not clean up after themselves, someone who doesn't like animals, or — you guessed it — a Trump supporter.
According to the Metropolitan Council On Housing, "If [a roommate] does not have a written agreement with the named tenant, or if you continue to live in the apartment beyond the length of time of your last agreement, you are a month-to-month roommate. The primary tenant can change the terms of your agreement (including the amount you are being charged) or ask you to leave upon 30 days written notice."
Generally speaking, there is no prohibition on discriminating against someone’s politics. So, Kian is free to live with whomever she wants.
In a piece published at the Huffington Post in 2014 after Brendan Eich resigned as CEO of Mozilla — long before the idea of Trump as president had entered many of our minds — writer John Becker made this astute observation:
Responding to prejudice with outrage and action doesn’t harm the LGBT civil rights movement. Accommodating bigotry, on the other hand, harms us a great deal — it reinforces the lie that some forms of hatred are worse than others, and tacitly concedes that homophobia is a legitimate worldview that deserves deference and respect.
This is, in a nutshell, why rejecting bigotry is not intolerance. It's the same reason why some people gaining access to rights does not oppress other people who already enjoyed those rights.
Besides, wouldn't you prefer to live with someone who you actually get along with?