Statement by Assistant to the President for Press Relations Fitzwater on the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988


June 21, 1988


The President is encouraged that the Fish-Michel-Sensenbrenner amendment will be adopted by the House during the consideration of H.R. 1158, the bill to amend the Fair Housing Act. This legislation, as amended, will go a long way to strengthen laws against discrimination in housing, a goal we all share. Among other things, the bill achieves a longstanding legislative objective of the President: to prohibit invidious discrimination in housing against those with handicaps.


The Fish-Michel-Sensenbrenner amendment preserves the constitutional right of Americans to jury trials in civil lawsuits. This amendment is a major step forward on the road to timely enactment of fair housing legislation. We are also encouraged by the amendment Congressman Clay Shaw plans to offer to protect the rights of older Americans and Americans without children.


Among our remaining concerns are two particular problems for which we would support corrective amendments: (1) preserving executive branch discretion in instituting civil lawsuits, thereby avoiding constitutional separation-of-powers litigation that could delay effective enforcement, and (2) maintaining litigation authority in the Department of Justice. The action anticipated by the House will advance major civil rights legislation which is long overdue.