Congress Must Prohibit Landlords From Discriminating Against Gay And Transgender People

Our guest blogger is Crosby Burns, special assistant for the LGBT Research and Communications Project at American Progress.

Gina Powers and her partner Steph Rindy were forced out of their apartment in West Fargo, North Dakota when their landlord found out they were in a committed same-sex relationship.

William Hubert was kicked out of his Southern California apartment when his landlord found out his live-in attendant was a lesbian and that Hubert associated with gay people.

And Joanne B, a transgender woman, was repeatedly harassed by her landlords who tried to “cure” her, demanded that she sleep in her own room and not with her partner, and eventually evicted her from her home.

Unfortunately for gay and transgender Americans, these heartbreaking stories are all too common. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, released a report recognizing the both gay and transgender Americans experience higher incidences of discrimination in the housing and rental markets than the general population.

For example, 30 percent of same-sex couples were treated negatively when attempting to buy or rent property. Gay individuals also reported verbal harassment from landlords, Realtors, and lenders. And same-sex couples were shown less desirable properties, quoted higher rent prices, received less favorable customer service, or encountered an outright refusal to sell or rent properties

Transgender individuals too experience high rates of housing discrimination. According to the most comprehensive study on transgender discrimination to date, 19 percent of transgender individuals report being denied a home or apartment and 11 percent report being evicted from their residence for being transgender. Considering these alarmingly high statistics, it is no wonder that 19 percent became homeless because of their transgender status, a rate significantly higher than the general population.

Whereas existing federal laws such as the Fair Housing Act prohibit housing discrimination on the basis of race, age, and gender — among other categories — no federal law prevents housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, 21 states and the District of Columbia outlaw housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and 15 and the District of Columbia do so on the basis of gender identity. But in a majority of states, gay and transgender people continue to lack adequate legal protections to shield them from discrimination in the housing and rental markets.

Thankfully, today, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced the Housing Opportunities Made Equal Act, or HOME Act. If passed, the HOME Act would expand existing federal housing nondiscrimination requirements to include sexual orientation and gender identity, providing gay and transgender Americans and their families with the protections necessary to combat discrimination in the housing and rental markets. HOME prohibits landlords from harassing or evicting gay and transgender tenants or charging them higher rent. It also prevents discrimination in credit markets, ensuring gay and transgender individuals have equitable access to credit.

Until Congress passes this measure, far too many gay and transgender people will continue to live in fear that they will no longer have a roof over their heads because of sexual orientation and gender identity-based housing discrimination.