There is good news from the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the agency has announced it plans to “administer and enforce the Fair Housing Act” with an eye toward eliminating discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In the earliest weeks of the Biden administration, the HUD Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) issued a memorandum indicating that HUD will interpret the Fair Housing Act “to bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and directing HUD offices and recipients of HUD funds to enforce the Act accordingly.”
This comes on the heels of the President’s executive order 13988, “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation” requiring executive branch agencies to examine further steps that could be taken to combat such discrimination.
That’s a far cry from the previous administration’s efforts on behalf of American citizens whose sexual identity or orientation is outside the mainstream.
Under the Trump administration, transgendered American citizens were barred by executive order from serving in the U.S. military.
Biden’s executive order with relation to HUD and housing rights comes in the wake of another Biden executive order erasing that Trump-era executive order banning transgendered recuits.
Both moves are critical for protecting the rights of all Americans. “Housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity demands urgent enforcement action,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of FHEO, Jeanine M. Worden, who was quoted in the press release.
Worden adds, “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.”
Why the executive order? Aside from the obvious reasons–all American citizens deserve equal and fair access to housing.
There have been housing discrimination studies, which according to the HUD press release indicate “same-sex couples and transgender persons in communities across the country experience demonstrably less favorable treatment than their straight and cisgender counterparts” in seeking certain kinds of housing.
The HUD press release includes a rare moment of openness about the circumstances of this move–ordinarily HUD press release trend toward a “facts-only” approach about the announcement at hand. But in this particular case, the press release adds that, despite the reality of this discrimination toward American taxpayers who happen to identify as trasngender, or who are in same-sex relationships, “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 ultimate HUD legal conclusion? The Fair Housing Act’s sex discrimination provisions are “comparable in text and purpose to those of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bars sex discrimination in the workplace”.
And the press release announces that HUD will enforce the Fair Housing Act to prevent and combat such discrimination. HUD now requires the following:
- HUD will accept and investigate all jurisdictional complaints of sex discrimination, including discrimination because of gender identity or sexual orientation.
- HUD will conduct all activities involving use of the Fair Housing Act to include the prohibition of housing discrimination because of sexual orientation and gender identity.
- State and local jurisdictions funded by HUD’s Fair Housing Assistance Program must administer those laws to prohibit discrimination because of gender identity and sexual orientation.
If you have experienced housing discrimination in any way, file a complaint via the HUD Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (TTY/Relay). Housing discrimination complaints can be sent online at hud.gov/fairhousing.