Protections under the Fair Housing Act will now cover LGBTQ Americans, the Biden administration announced Thursday, a move that allows the federal government to investigate complaints of housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The new policy by the Department of Housing and Urban Development represents one of the earliest federal anti-discrimination changes made by the new administration using an executive order signed last month by President Joe Biden. The President’s order mandated agencies implement a recent Supreme Court decision prohibiting sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the workplace in laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex.
Under the new guidance, HUD said it will be able to investigate complaints made under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 – which “prohibits this discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability” – that are made by people “who alleged discrimination because of gender identity or sexual orientation.” The department said it will also look into those types of complaints made since January 20, 2020, the day Biden signed his order.
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“Housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity demands urgent enforcement action,” Jeanine M. Worden, the acting assistant secretary of HUD’s office Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a statement. “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.”
The department said the action was needed because of “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.”
The new policy also represents a stark policy difference from the Trump administration. Then-HUD Secretary Ben Carson issued a rule last summer that would have stripped protections for transgender Americans seeking housing in federally funded homeless shelters. That proposal is set to be finalized in April, though the Biden administration will likely seek to stop it from becoming effective.
A number of LGBTQ advocacy groups applauded the administration’s new rule on Thursday, including the Human Rights Campaign, which said the policy will especially help transgender and LGBTQ people of color facing housing discrimination.
“LGBTQ people can rest assured that if they are denied housing in an emergency or refused rental of an apartment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity they will have recourse under federal law,” Alphonso David, the group’s president, said in a statement.