Eugene Volokh notes that the lawsuit Evenchik v. Avis Rent a Car Systems is moving forward.
The plaintiff claims that Avis charged her more to rent a car because she isn’t gay.
According to the Complaint, Plaintiff rented a car from AVIS in July 2011, in the County of San Diego, California. She was charged $311.36. According to the Complaint, at that time AVIS gave large price discounts to members of two groups: the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Plaintiff is not a member of either group. The Complaint further alleges that AVIS did not give her the gay and lesbian group member price discount. Plaintiff alleges that California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act … prohibits a business from discriminating between its customers on the basis of sexual orientation…
Avis says that the Civil Rights Act is meant to protect disadvantaged classes, and not in this case heterosexuals. But the Court rules that’s not obviously the case, and that it bars all discimination.
Avis further argues that the plaintiff could have joined the organizations which provided the discounts in question, but the Court says Avis didn’t actually demonstrate that membership in these organization would have been open to the plaintiff. It will be interesting to see, as the case progresses, whether or not the ability to join the organization regardless of one’s sexual orientation will be a valid defense against the discrimination claims being made.
Perhaps more importantly — but one understands why Avis can’t actually make this claim in court — Avis offers discounts to a variety of organizations. Like AAA and Costco members. And with the exception of some government rates and Avis employee rates, there’s no proof of membership that’s generally enforced — you just enter the discount code and receive the discount. (You can also add coupon codes to your reservation.)
The point here being that the plaintiff could have simply used the relevant discount code instead of suing.
Not to mention of course that they could have chosen to rent from a competing company, which may well have been cheaper still. Though I have no idea whether or not that would be a valid defense against an Unruh Civil Rights Act claim under California law, not being familiar with the particulars. Although it does seem like it should be, as a matter of common sense if not of law.