In response to a proposed regulation from the Department of Housing and Urban Development prohibiting discrimination in its programs based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has cried out that the regulation will interfere with their religious beliefs and threatened to end their support and sponsorship of tenants for HUD programs (PDF):
Specifically, the regulations may force faith-based and other organizations, as a condition of participating in HUD programs and in contravention of their religious beliefs, to facilitate shared housing arrangements between persons who are not joined in the legal union of one man and one woman. By this, we do not mean that any person should be denied housing. Making decisions about shared housing, however, is another matter. Particularly here, faith-based and other organizations should retain the freedom they have always had to make housing placements in a manner consistent with their religious beliefs, including when it concerns a cohabiting couple, be it an unmarried heterosexual couple or a homosexual couple. Given the very large role that faith-based organizations play in HUD programs, the regulation, by infringing upon that freedom, may have the ultimate effect of driving away organizations with a long and successful track record in meeting housing needs, leaving beneficiaries without the housing that they sought or that the government intended them to receive.
HUD’s decision reflects a growing awareness of the discrimination actually faced by people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. A recent study revealed that one in five transgender individuals has experienced homelessness. An estimated 40% of homeless youth are LGBT, and LGBT elders are at higher risk for homelessness due to the compounding financial inequities they experience over their lifetimes.
This is only the latest of several threats from the Catholic Church to suspend charity support in the face of LGBT progress. In 2009, when the District of Columbia was preparing to pass marriage equality, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington threatened to discontinue all social services for the city if the same-sex marriage law was passed. After the law passed, DC Catholic Charities dropped all spousal benefits for newlyweds and new hires. In Maine, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland pulled its funding of a homeless shelter because of its support of same-sex marriage.
But, while the Bishops feel that it is more important to discriminate against LGBT people than to actually provide them housing, a recent study revealed that 74% of American Catholics support same-sex marriage or civil unions. In conjunction with its new proposed policy (PDF), HUD is also conducting its own study of housing discrimination against LGBT people.