Brooklyn Bus Flouts Discrimination Law

Every day sex-segregated buses for Hasidim roll right past my corner, ferrying people between Williamsburg and Boro Park. It never occurred to me to write about it.

I’ve been writing and editing lots of Sisterhood stories about the sex segregation problems in Jerusalem and its environs, but I assumed that the bus line that I see six days a week (not on Shabbos or holidays of course, when we often see men in shtreimels and frock coats making the trek by foot) was private. It is painted different colors, has a different kind of bus-route display on its front, the long windows on the side are tinted dark gray so you can’t see in, and the buses are festooned with Yiddish ads for everything from kosher vitamins to holy books.

Why on earth would it have anything to do with the New York City public transit system?

Well apparently it does, and the “discovery” of this bus route has been getting lots of recent press, in a New York Time story and the Columbia University Journalism School publication The New York World, which broke the story.

That story says:

According to The Times story:

The Columbia J-School story says:

Why should the Hasidic community, or any particular community for that matter, be able to obtain a franchise to run a quasi-public service?

If they want to live according to a totally separate set of rules then let them provide their own, totally private bus lines. I wouldn’t want to ride a bus where I was required to sit in the back, but if they want to live this way, then they have every right to – in their own private spaces, like in synagogues and homes.

They have no right to run afoul of anti-discrimination laws if they receive any sort of public funding or accommodation.

The Columbia story said:

Good luck with that. Though no community is more adept at making use of public funds than Haredi communities are, they are still more likely to give up whatever public money they receive for the operation of this bus line than they are to allow men and women to sit side-by-side on busses.

After all, as one man interviewed in The New York World said, “If God makes a rule, you don’t ask ‘Why make the rule?”

Fortunately, most of us don’t believe that God made a rule that women are required to sit in the back of buses. And now, according to a new New York World story, the New York City Commission on Human Rights is investigating. The commission’s tag line is “Discrimination is illegal in New York City.”

And that applies to everyone, even those who believe that being religious means behaving as if women deserve to sit at the back of the bus.

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Brooklyn Bus Flouts Discrimination Law

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