'Housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity demands urgent enforcement action,' said a Biden official.
The Biden administration announced on Thursday that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development would accept and investigate complaints of anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
The agency said it will take into accounts charges of discrimination against LGBTQ people in enforcement of the Fair Housing Act, which protects against discrimination against people based on sex, race, color, national origin, familial status, and disability when they seek a mortgage or rental assistance or buy a home.
On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order implementing the Supreme Court's 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County across all federal agencies. The decision found that anti-LGBTQ discrimination is sex discrimination.
A memorandum issued by HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity says, "We will collaborate with our [Fair Housing Initiative Program] and [Fair Housing Assistance Program] partners, particularly over the next several months, to fully engage our fair housing enforcement, advocacy, and public education efforts across the housing market to prevent and combat discrimination because of sexual orientation and gender identity."
It orders, "FHEO Regional Offices, FHAP agencies and FHIP grantees are instructed to review, within 30 days, all records of allegations of discrimination (inquiries, complaints, phone logs, etc.) received since January 20, 2020. They are instructed to notify persons who alleged discrimination because of gender identity or sexual orientation that their claims may be timely and jurisdictional for filing."
Jeanine M. Worden, acting assistant secretary of the department's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said, "Housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity demands urgent enforcement action."
A study conducted by the Urban Institute in 2017 found statistically significant bias on the part of landlords against LGBTQ people inquiring about rental properties.
Only 22 states have explicit nondiscrimination protections based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Karen Loewy, senior counsel with Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ legal rights organization, celebrated the news. Loewy said, "The harassment and discrimination that LGBTQ people face in housing are forms of sex discrimination that federal law will not tolerate. These actions by HUD will both prevent future discrimination and ensure that those who have experienced discrimination have a clear avenue for relief."
During his presidential campaign, Biden vowed to reverse many of Trump's anti-LGBTQ policies posthaste and advocate for the passage of the Equality Act, which would clarify and expand LGBTQ anti-discrimination protections. The Biden administration has already taken steps to reverse Trump's transgender military ban and recommit to protecting the rights of LGBTQ people abroad.
The actions stand in stark contrast to those of the Trump administration, which scaled back all housing discrimination investigations. According to a report published by the Washington Post report, by December 2018, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson had "only once used his authority as HUD secretary to scrutinize widespread housing discrimination."
Soon after Carson's confirmation, HUD removed guidance from its website on emergency shelter compliance with rules barring discrimination against LGBTQ people.
The Trump administration also moved to reverse Obama-era regulations that banned discrimination against LGBTQ people in programs receiving federal funding.
In July 2020, HUD proposed a policy allowing staff at single-sex shelters to deny services to transgender women experiencing homelessness based on an examination of their appearance, such as height and facial hair. The rule hadn't been finalized by the time Trump left office.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.