The Oregon Legislature approved the ban last year, saying such letters could aid sellers in illegally choosing buyers based on factors such as race, color, religion, sex or sexual orientation, which would violate federal fair housing laws. Conservative public interest law firm the Pacific Legal Foundation sued.
Hernandez ruled that the ban, which would require a home seller to “reject any communication other than customary documents in a real estate transaction, including photographs, provided by a buyer,” was a violation of buyers’ First Amendment rights.
“Oregon Revised Statutes section 696.805(7), which requires ‘a seller’s agent’ to ‘reject any communication other than customary documents in a real estate transaction, including photographs, provided by a buyer,’ violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Hernandez wrote in the consent decree.
“The entry of the consent decree sends a clear message that states cannot infringe upon home buyers’ and sellers’ right to communicate freely,” said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Daniel Ortner in a statement. “The State of Oregon clearly recognized that it could not justify its ban on sharing information that helps sellers find the best buyer for their home. Other states considering similar unlawful policies should stop attempts to ban love letters and instead protect freedom of speech and economic opportunity.”