Obama Administration Bans LGBT Housing Discrimination
Looking to buy a new home? In some cases, you could be denied based on your sexual orientation.
At least, that was the reality that millions of LGBT Americans faced for many years—until the Obama administration announced new regulations recently that would make such discrimination in federally-funded or -insured housing illegal.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan shared the news of the historic milestone during the 24th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change, which was held in Baltimore over the weekend.
“If you are denying HUD housing to people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, actual or perceived, you’re discriminating,” Donovan said at the conference. “You’re breaking the law, and you will be held accountable. That’s what equal access means, and that’s what this rule is going to do.”
Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, spoke with Campus Progress about the issue at Creating Change:
The announcement comes on the heels of a survey co-sponsored by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality that found 1 in 5 transgender and gender non-conforming Americans had been refused a home or apartment because of discrimination. One in 10 had been evicted for the same reason.
The new rules will prohibit owners and operators of housing that is insured or funded by the federal government, as well as lenders offering federally insured mortgages, from discriminating based on gender identity or sexual orientation. The new policy also clarifies the definition of “family” to ensure that LGBT families are included in HUD programs.
“The federal government plays a huge role in housing for Americans,” said Keisling. “HUD’s really making an effort here to reign in [discrimination] and try to give people and advocates the tools to really end that.”
For LGBT Americans, the announcement is a major achievement as they have often not been included as a protected class in federal anti-discriminatory legislation.
Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, commonly referred to as the Fair Housing Act, guarantees equal opportunity in housing regardless of “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” More than four decades later, LGBT Americans are still not protected under Title VIII.
And they face discrimination outside the home, too. In 29 states it’s still legal for employers to fire someone because they’re gay, lesbian, or bisexual. In 34 states, an employee can be fired solely for being transgender.
The recent announcement is a step forward, but as Donovan noted, “enacting a rule is not enough.”
“Let’s keep creating change,” he said. “This year, next and every year going forward.”
Graham White is a journalism intern for Campus Progress. You can follow him on Twitter @GrahamWhiteNY.