The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled Monday, by a 6-3 margin, that LGBTQ people are considered a protected class when it comes to employment discrimination. It’s a decision that could have a major impact on the fight for housing equality for LGBTQ individuals.
“Two days ago the President revoked equal healthcare protection for transgender Americans through executive order,” Ryan Weyandt, a St. Paul-based mortgage professional and LGBT+ advocate in real estate, told Inman. “Today we stand united and celebrate a momentous victory as the Supreme Court rules to protect LGBT+ rights in the workplace.”
“While this is a huge step forward for our community, housing discrimination remains legal against the LGBT+ community in more than half of the states in America,” Weyandt said. “This was a positive step forward, but it emphasizes the need to extend protections to LGBT+ American’s in all aspects of life.”
The Fair Housing Act, passed into law in 1968 and now a bedrock of the real estate industry, makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status or national origin in the renting or selling of housing and related services.
It does not, however, specifically mention sexual orientation or gender identity as protected categories.
In the absence of a federal law banning discrimination against such persons in housing and other services, 21 states in the U.S. have passed their own laws banning housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
There’s been a significant initiative in the past year to pass the Equality Act, which is universally supported by the top real estate brokerages and holding companies in the country. The Equality Act would codify those gender identity and sexual orientation protections into law.
The Equality Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives last year, but has failed to make it through the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, and President Donald Trump has previously expressed his intention to veto the legislation.
Monday’s SCOTUS ruling could be precedent-setting however. If LGBTQ individuals are protected from discrimination in the workplace, it’s reasonable that these same protections could be applied when it comes to housing, if such a case appears before the Supreme Court.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) applauded the ruling, saying it was overjoyed celebrate this victory with the LGBTQ persons among its 1.4 million members.
“NAR amended its code of ethics to prohibit discrimination in real estate based on sexual orientation in 2010 and gender identity in 2013,” NAR President Vince Malta said, in a statement. “Now, all LGBTQ persons will have this same peace of mind in the workplace.”
“Many minorities unfortunately know the sickening feeling that comes with the fear of losing a job because of prejudice,” Malta added. “This ruling today is a victory for fairness at a time our country needs it most. It offers momentum in the fight for equality for all persons suffering under the weight of intolerance and bias.”
Malta also re-affirmed that NAR will continue to actively seek legislation to include gender identity and sexual orientation among the protected classes under the Fair Housing Act.