On August 10, 2006 the ACLU of Eastern Missouri and the ACLU
Women’s Rights Project filed a lawsuit on behalf of Olivia Shelltrack, Fondray Loving and their family who were
denied a permit to live in the City of Black Jack because of a law that prohibited more than three people from living
together unless they are related by “blood, marriage or adoption.”
August 15, 2006 The Black Jack City Council voted UNANIMIOUSLY to
change the policy and amend the definition of "family". This vote
differed dramatically from the vote on May 5, to where five of the
eight members of the City Council REJECTED a proposal to change the
“The City of Black
Jack’s behavior was both pompous and unconstitutional,”
said Brenda Jones, Executive Director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. “Black Jack’s attempt to criminalize people’s
choice to live together as a family has earned international ridicule for Missouri.”
Fondray Loving and Olivia Shelltrack live in a
2,300-square-foot home in Black Jack, a suburb of St. Louis, with their three children. Because Loving is not the biological father
of Shelltrack’s oldest child, the city had denied the family an occupancy
permit for the home that they purchased.
The family faced fines of up to $500 every week for living in their
home without an approved occupancy permit.
Loving and Shelltrack have lived together for 13 years with Shelltrack’s
oldest child, 15-year-old Alexia. Katarina, 10, and Fondray, Jr., 9, are the biological children of both
Loving and Shelltrack.
“The government has no business saying two consenting adults
cannot live with their own children,” said Tony Rothert, Legal Director of the
ACLU of Eastern Missouri. “The town
rejected a proposal to change this outmoded law, so we had no choice but to go
to court to protect the rights of this family.”
Emily Martin, an attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights
Project, noted that a court in North
Carolina recently struck down that state’s
201-year-old ban on cohabitation in another case brought by the ACLU. “The government is using housing laws to
impose its ideas of morality on residents, but there is nothing moral about
denying a home to a family,” she said.
This lawsuit, Loving
v. City of Black Jack, filed in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County,
challenges the ordinance as a violation of the family’s rights to due process
and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution, as well as family status discrimination
under fair housing laws. The lawsuit names the City of Black Jack and several city officials as
for the ACLU are Rothert, Martin and Gerald P. Greiman of the law firm
Spencer Fane Britt & Browne LLP as cooperating
attorney for the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.
The lawsuit is still pending.
8/10 Lawsuit filed in Black Jack