Under Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court has scaled back civil rights laws. (Nati Harnik/AP Photo)
Under Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court has scaled back civil rights laws. (Nati Harnik/AP Photo)
Under Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court has scaled back civil rights laws. (Nati Harnik/AP Photo)

WASHINGTON (USA Today) — Two days after celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth, the Supreme Court will consider weakening a federal housing discrimination law passed in the wake of his death.

The showdown over the Fair Housing Act of 1968 has been anticipated for several years — eagerly by conservatives who say the law has gone too far, anxiously by civil rights groups who fear it will be rolled back.

The facts of the case — involving a decision by Dallas officials to make most federal low-income housing vouchers available in poor, minority neighborhoods — are less important than the potential nationwide impact. If the court rules as expected, housing discrimination cases would be tougher to win from coast to coast.

Two earlier housing discrimination lawsuits from Minnesota and New Jersey were withdrawn or settled just before reaching the high court — in one case at the urging of the Obama administration, which is aligned with the civil rights community. They fear what most court-watchers predict: that five justices are poised to weaken the law, just as they did the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

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