In a historic announcement, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) confirmed earlier today that it will use the Fair Housing Act to prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination in housing. This means that queer people across the country can no longer be turned away from housing — including rentals — because of their identity.
The announcement was issued in response to a pro-LGBTQ executive order signed by President Joe Biden during his first day in office. Dubbed “the most substantive” LGBTQ executive order in U.S. history, the order more broadly implemented a landmark June 2020 Supreme Court decision protecting LGBTQ people from workplace discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
“Housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity demands urgent enforcement action,” said Jeanine M. Worden, acting assistant secretary of HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “That is why HUD, under the Biden Administration, will fully enforce the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. Every person should be able to secure a roof over their head free from discrimination, and the action we are taking today will move us closer to that goal.”
LGBTQ people have long faced discrimination for the most basic need in life: a safe place to call home. Enforcing this order means HUD returns to its mission to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. https://t.co/7i62Z1YMfG
— GLAAD (@glaad) February 11, 2021
HUD is the first federal agency to respond to Biden’s order, and advocates say it won’t be the last. Still, the issue of discrimination in housing situations is especially meaningful to LGBTQ people, who face disproportionately high rates of houselessness. As recently as January 2019, a judge in St. Louis, Missouri, dismissed a housing-discrimination case filed by an elderly lesbian couple that was turned away from a senior-living community because they were gay. In the past year alone, HUD has received 197 claims of discrimination related to gender identity or sexuality, a rep for the agency told NPR.
In a statement, Jesse Van Tol, president and CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), a group that advocates for fairness and equity in housing and lending, praised HUD for “taking strong action” against housing discrimination.
“[The LGBTQ] community faces some of the highest rates of homelesses, which stems in large part from discrimination,” Van Tol continued. “They also face discrimination at many homelesses shelters. Full enforcement of the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identify or sexual orientation was long overdue, and we applaud HUD for moving quickly.”