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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 16, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 29
New HUD policies to protect LGBT community
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New HUD policies to protect LGBT community

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced new policies designed to address housing discrimination against the LGBT community.

In its latest policy guidance, HUD announced that gender identity and expression will be protected under the gender discrimination provisions of the Fair Housing Act.

One of the Johnson administration's landmark civil rights bills, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin.

Congress amended the law in 1974 to include protections based on gender. In 1988, it added protections based on disability and family status.

Sexual orientation and gender identity are not included in the law, but the new HUD rules will allow federal authorities to use existing provisions to protect Transgender people.

"Our job to prevent and combat housing discrimination is not complete without addressing 21st-century issues," Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity John TrasviƱa said in a statement July 1.?!?

"Our fair housing staff will work with state and local civil rights agencies to investigate and refer discrimination cases and work to combat all aspects of gender discrimination."

HUD also stated that LGBT individuals who face discrimination because of real or perceived HIV status will be protected under the disability provisions of the Fair Housing Act.

In addition, the new policy requires HUD staff to inform people who file discrimination complaints of state and local anti-discrimination laws that include LGBT protections.

Some 20 states, the District of Columbia, and over 60 municipalities across the country have additional protections that specifically prohibit such discrimination against LGBT individuals.

Under the latest rules, HUD will retain jurisdiction over complaints filed by LGBT individuals or families but will also investigate complaints jointly with state and municipal governments with other legal protections, or refer complaints to them.

The new policy also mandates that applicants seeking HUD funding must comply with state and local anti-discrimination laws that protect members of the LGBT community. Previously, they only had to comply with federal law.

The new policies follow changes announced by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan last October. Those changes

o Defined "family" to include LGBT individuals, couples, and their dependents, so that they are protected under the family status provisions of the Fair Housing Act.

o Required FHA-insured mortgages be based solely on the credit-worthiness of the borrower, and not on any unrelated factors like sexual orientation or gender identity.

o Commissioned the first-ever national study of discrimination against the LGBT community in the rental and sale of housing.

In a White House LGBT media briefing earlier this month, President Obama's Domestic Policy Adviser Melody Barnes said that because the president believes that DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) is discriminatory, he wanted all executive departments to go as far as possible in equalizing benefits for same-sex couples.

"We try and make sure that couples - same-sex couples - have access to the full range of benefits," Barnes said, "which is why he has called for activity on the federal level in the federal government and asked his cabinet heads and agency heads to scrub their authorities to see how far they can go and to go as far as they can."

Full protection for LGBT families requires federal legislation, however.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, introduced legislation to that effect on March 11 this year.

The Fair and Inclusive Housing Act of 2010 would amend the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Nadler's subcommittee has held one hearing on the measure. As yet, there is no companion bill in the Senate.

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