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  • Friday, August 25, 2006


    City of Black Jack, Missouri Forced to Renounce Ordinance Prohibiting Unmarried Couple and Children From Living in City

    The City of Black Jack, Missouri and its Mayor Norman McCourt disgracefully tried to run a law-abiding, tax-paying family out of town ostensibly because there are too many “unrelated” people living in their house, i.e., the unmarried couple and their three children. Olivia Shelltrack, Fondray Loving and their three children 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.”

    On May 5, 2006, the Black Jack City Council refused to amend the ordinance to allow a family like the Shelltrack/Loving family to obtain an occupancy permit to live in the city.

    On August 10, 2006, the ACLU of Eastern Missouri filed a lawsuit, Loving v. City of Black Jack, in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, challenging 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 defendants.

    On August 15, 2006, less than a week after the lawsuit was filed, the Black Jack City Council voted UNANIMOUSLY to reverse its policy and amend the definition of "family" to include unrelated people and the children of both or either person who live together as a single housekeeping unit. The amendment would make the family eligible for an occupancy permit.

    Black Jack Mayor Norman McCourt insisted the city ordinance had nothing to do with morality but was intended to prevent crowding. In my opinion, the ordinance had everything to do with allowing the stodgy Mayor McCourt and his puritannical and small-minded cronies to impose their morality and to try to discriminate against and exclude from "their" community people to whom they condescended in their arrogance to judge as unworthy.

    My opinion in this regard is supported by a letter Mayor McCourt wrote in 1999 when the city refused to issue an occupancy permit to an unmarried couple and their triplets. In that letter, Mayor McCourt wrote:

    It is apparently the opinion of the majority of the City Council, the Board of
    Adjustment and certainly the input received from the majority of the City's
    residents, in this instance, that they do not believe that an unmarried couple
    having children residing in our community is an appropriate standard that they
    wish to approve....

    We believe our community standards and the morals
    thereof are something that the City can and must enforce....

    The easiest resolution to cure the situation would be for them to be married. Our community believes that this is the appropriate way to raise a family. While it would be naive to say that we don't recognize that children are born out of wedlock
    frequently these days, we certainly don't believe that is the type of
    environnment within which children should be brought into this world. I believe
    the City has acted appropriately in keeping with the law, consistent with our
    community's moral and standards, and that we will continue to enforce our
    ordinances to protect the interests of our community.

    Yes, Mayor McCourt, you ARE a hypocrite. Your insistence that the ordinance was only intended to prevent crowding is belied by your 1999 letter which shows you used the ordinance to impose your narrow-minded standards of morality. Yes, Mayor McCourt, you ARE a spineless worm because you used your ordinance to bully countless defenseless people who were not willing or able to fight tough-talking, moralizing, insufferable prigs like you and your cronies at City Hall. But when faced with a lawsuit that would subject your city's actions to scrutiny in a court of law that would demonstrate that the City's ordinance and its actions were NOT consistent with the Constitutions of the United States and Missouri, you and your City made a rapid retreat and hastily amended the ordinance.

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