The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) said Tuesday that homeless transgender women, who were assigned the male gender on their birth certificates but identify as female, should be housed with other women at shelters.
The transgender protections will apply to certain federally funded shelters.
"This new rule will ensure equal access to the very programs that help to prevent homelessness for persons who are routinely forced to choose between being placed in facilities against their gender identity or living on our streets,” HUD Secretary Julián Castro said.
This is the latest step taken by the Obama administration to end discrimination against transgender Americans. The move comes amid uproar over a North Carolina law that prohibits transgender people from using the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity.
The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus cheered the new transgender protections from HUD.
"Transgender Americans, particularly transgender women of color, can face multifaceted discrimination in many areas of life,” said Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus.
"Access to emergency housing is a vital part of our shared safety net: a place that any person can go when they are facing a dangerous situation at home or fall on hard economic times,” he added. "The HUD rule will literally save lives."
HUD prohibited discrimination against transgender people in low-income housing projects in 2012 but is now expanding the protections to include homeless shelters it funds.
These shelters must now give transgender people the option of being housed with the gender with which they identify.
The rule is aimed at protecting transgender women, which HUD claims could face a heightened level of harassment if they are housed in a men’s shelter.
"Transgender women, in particular, reported that they are excluded from women’s shelters, forcing them to live on the streets, or to seek shelter in male-only facilities where they’re forced to disguise their gender identity or face abuse,” the agency said.
The protections go into effect in 30 days.
This story was updated on Sept. 21.