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Stamping Out LGBT Discrimination in Housing

Ian S. Thompson,
Senior Legislative Advocate,
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January 24, 2011

Today the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published a proposed rule regarding equal access to HUD housing programs regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Among the aims of the rule is a prohibition on inquires regarding sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as a prohibition on using sexual orientation or gender identity as grounds for decision-making in Federal Housing Administration (FHA) programs. Additionally, the rule clarifies that “eligible families” include those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT).

In laying out the case for the rule, HUD states that there is strong evidence that LGBT individuals and families do not have equal access to housing. To cite but one example, they discuss a 2007 study of housing discrimination based on sexual orientation in Michigan:

Testers who posed as gay or lesbian home seekers received unfavorable treatment on issues such as whether housing was available, the amount of rent, application fees, and levels of encouragement as compared to testers posing as heterosexual home seekers. The gay and lesbian testers also were subjected to offensive comments.

Additionally, a recent survey of more than 6,000 transgender individuals conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found “significant levels of housing instability for transgender people.” For example:

26 percent of respondents reported having to find different places to sleep for short periods of time due to bias. 11 percent of respondents reported having been evicted due to bias, and 19 percent reported becoming homeless due to bias.

In announcing the rule, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said, “This is a fundamental issue of fairness. We have a responsibility to make certain that public programs are open to all Americans. With this proposed rule, we will make clear that a person’s eligibility for federal housing programs is, and should be, based on their need and not on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The ACLU could not agree with Secretary Donovan more strongly. This proposed rule moves us one step closer to an America where decent, affordable housing is available to all Americans.

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