After an executive order by President Biden, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will consider sexual orientation and gender identity as protected from discrimination in housing. This also follows a Supreme Court ruling establishing that the Civil Rights Act’s prohibition of discrimination based on gender applies to sexual orientation and gender identity.
According to NPR, studies had already shown that same-sex couples and transgender people are more likely than others to experience rental housing discrimination. And, indeed, HUD received 197 claims of discrimination against people due to sexual orientation or gender identity in the past year.
However, until now, federal fair housing laws had not been interpreted as prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
Then, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that discrimination against the LGBTQ community is essentially sex discrimination. Although that ruling only applies strictly to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, President Biden interprets the principle to mean that LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination in education, health care and housing.
“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,” said the president of the Human Rights Campaign, a nonprofit and advocacy organization.
HUD announced that it will review every claim of discrimination it has received since Jan. 20, 2020, that involved gender identity or sexual orientation. It has told its jurisdictional partners to do the same.
The executive order and its policy repercussions mean that the LGBTQ community can now file complaints with HUD. They may also have recourse to lawsuits.
“Housing is basic human right,” said the head of Out & Equal, an LGBTQ workplace advocacy group. “Thankfully, President Biden is bringing the full force of the federal government to bear so that no LGBTQ American will be denied a roof over their head just because of who they are or who they love.”
Leigh Law Group takes civil rights cases for the LGBTQ community, including in the area of housing discrimination.