Bill would ban housing discrimination against LGBT community

Previous attempt to amend Fair Housing Act died in committee

On the heels of a study that found same-sex couples looking to rent homes are more likely to experience unfavorable treatment than heterosexual couples, lawmakers have once again introduced a bill that would  amend the Fair Housing Act and make it illegal to commit housing discrimination against lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against people on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and familial status. But it does not provide the same protection to the LGBT community, or people who are discriminated against because of the source of their income.

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Representatives Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and John Conyers, D-Mich., this week introduced the Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act, which would prohibit discrimination in the sale or rental of housing, the financing of housing, and in brokerage services on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, source of income, or marital status.

The Home Act would also provide “nontraditional” families with equal protection, by amending the definition of “familial status” to include “anyone standing in loco parentis” of one or more individuals who are not 18 years of age.

Two years ago, Nadler introduced the HOME Act of 2011, cosponsored by Conyers and 12 other representatives, which was referred to the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, where it died. A companion bill introduced in the Senate by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., met a similar fate.

With Kerry now serving as secretary of state, Ohio Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown has taken up the HOME Act’s cause in the Senate, announcing the introduction of the HOME Act of 2013 in that body on Thursday.

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“While we’ve made significant progress over the years, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is still not protected against discriminatory practices that deny them housing or a fair price for housing,” Brown said. “That is why I am introducing the Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act, which would ensure that a LGBT American has the same opportunity to purchase a home or property as any other American.”

A recent study commissioned by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) found that housing providers favored heterosexual couples over gay male couples in 15.9 percent of tests, and favored heterosexual couples over lesbian couples in 15.6 percent of tests.

The National Fair Housing Alliance applauded the reintroduction of the HOME Act.

“For a long time now, NFHA has wanted the federal Fair Housing Act to include protections for a lot of classes that are often being discriminated against. Providing housing should be nothing more than a business decision,” President and Chief Executive Officer of NFHA Shanna Smith said in a statement. “If an individual can afford housing, there is no reason they should be denied housing. Passage of the HOME Act would be a major win for civil rights.”

Currently, only 20 states prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, while just 14 states and D.C. prohibit it based on gender identity, according to the NFHA. The NFHA said only 12 states and D.C. prohibit housing discrimination based on source of income.

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — which enabled states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed under the laws of other states — is unconstitutional.

The same day, the court also invalidated a same-sex marriage ban enacted by California.

Have you observed housing discrimination against members of the LGBT community in your housing market? Are you in favor of, or opposed to, amending the Fair Housing Act?


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