Federal agency to crack down on LGBTQ housing discrimination
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced Thursday that it will use the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender.
The federal agency announced in a memorandum that it will invoke the sweeping 1968 housing law to penalize those who refuse to rent, sell or advertise housing to someone because they are an LGBTQ individual, or interfere with their housing rights because of their identity.
“The significance of this action is underscored by a number of housing discrimination studies which indicate that same-sex couples and transgender persons in communities across the country experience demonstrably less favorable treatment than their straight and cisgender counterparts when seeking rental housing,” HUD said in a statement Thursday.
“Despite this reality, the Department has been constrained in its efforts to address housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by legal uncertainty about whether most such discrimination was within HUD’s reach.”
The Fair Housing Act bans housing discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin, ethnicity, familial status and disability, but was not previously considered by HUD to cover sexual orientation and gender.
The agency said that according to a legal review, the Fair Housing Act covers sexual orientation and gender identity because its provisions on sex-based discrimination “are comparable in text and purpose” to those in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Supreme Court ruled in June that the 1964 law protects LGBTQ individuals from being fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
HUD’s decision follows an executive order signed by President Biden last month ordering federal departments and agencies to adapt sex discrimination-related regulations to the court’s decision.
Under the new policy, HUD will investigate and enforce potential fair housing violations against LGBTQ individuals, which can either be settled between the parties or referred to the Justice Department for prosecution. HUD-funded jurisdictions and housing programs are also obligated to prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity-based discrimination.
HUD has also asked all fair housing and equal opportunity regional offices and agency grantees to review complaints of sexual orientation and gender identity-based discrimination received since Jan. 20, 2020.
Biden has nominated Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) to serve as HUD secretary. Her nomination was advanced for a full confirmation vote by the Senate Banking Committee earlier this month.
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