Bias Against Single People Is Targeted

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Citing concern about "unjust" business practices, City Atty. James K. Hahn announced Monday the formation of a task force to study discrimination against single people and unmarried couples.

The task force will hold a series of public hearings focusing on consumer problems, such as discrimination by landlords, insurance companies and even airline frequent flier programs.

"I'm married and I get a lot of benefits from being married," Hahn said. "Most of us aren't living in traditional American families anymore, and the rights and privileges extended to a few should be extended to everyone."

Only 22% of the households in Los Angeles are "so-called traditional family units" composed of "mom, dad and the kids," Hahn said.

The task force will hold public hearings to determine the nature and extent of "marital status discrimination," Hahn said, and will review the adequacy of existing anti-discrimination laws.

Hahn's office became involved in the issue after a city report published in May, 1988, recommended that the city attorney begin monitoring complaints about "life-style discrimination" filed with the state insurance commissioner and other agencies.

The report, prepared by the city's Task Force on Family Diversity, recommended that strong, long-term family bonds be encouraged for traditional same-sex couples and unmarried opposite-sex couples, as well as traditional families.

"Unmarried couples have a constitutional right to live together as a single family," the report said, "but they are not automatically entitled to the same rights and benefits as married couples."

Hahn's task force will be headed by Thomas F. Coleman, an attorney who is single and is an adjunct professor at the USC Law Center.

Coleman said Monday that recent studies have shown that businesses discriminate against single people and pointed out that some insurers refuse to issue automobile insurance policies to single men in certain age groups.

He said the task force will examine a range of consumer issues, including the policies of some airline frequent-flier programs that place limitations on their awards based on marital status. Other issues that will be studied are discrimination in rental housing, automobile and health club membership discount policies, health care services and survivors' rights.

The task force is expected to report back to Hahn by next March. Hahn selected the 21-member task force from a group of nominees proposed by government agencies, businesses and community organizations.

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