HUD adds LGBTs to housing rules

At the Creating Change Conference held in Baltimore Jan. 25–29, Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced a new policy to fight discrimination. The new rules will be published this week and go into effect 30 days later.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan

“Today, I am proud to announce a new Equal Access to Housing Rule that says clearly and unequivocally that LGBT individuals and couples have the right to live where they choose. This is an idea whose time has come,” he said.

The new rules increase protection against housing discrimination by:

• prohibiting owners and operators of HUD-assisted or HUD-insured housing from discriminating against an applicant or occupant of a residence based on sexual orientation or gender identity;

• prohibiting all lenders offering Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgages from considering sexual orientation or gender identity in determining a borrower’s eligibility; and

• clarifying the definition of “family” to ensure that otherwise eligible participants in any HUD programs will not be excluded based on marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

“I’m here this afternoon because our president and his administration believe the LGBT community deserves a place at the table — and also a place to call home. Each of us here knows that rights most folks take for granted are routinely violated against LGBT people,” Donovan said. “That’s why I’m proud to stand before you this afternoon and say HUD has been a leader in the fight — your fight and my fight — for equality. Over the last three years, we have worked to ensure that our housing programs are open. Not to some. Not to most. But open to all.”

The new regulations result from HUD under Donovan collecting data to better understand how same-sex couples suffer housing discrimination. His department has already worked to protect LGBT people under the Fair Housing Act.

Donovan is the first sitting cabinet secretary to address Creating Change.

This was the 24th Creating Change, the country’s largest annual gathering of LGBT rights advocates, staged annually by National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Video of Donovan’s speech follows the jump:

—  David Taffet

President Obama set to deliver keynote at HRC dinner; Kerry introduces anti-discrimination bill

President Barack Obama, left, and Sen. John Kerry

Officials with the Human Rights Campaign announced this week that President Barack Obama will deliver the keynote address at HRC’s 15th annual National Dinner on Saturday night, Oct. 1 in Washington, D.C.

This will be the president’s second time to speak at the HRC National Dinner; the first time was in 2009, less than a year after he was elected president.

HRC President Joe Solmonese praised the president’s “tremendous record of accomplishment for LGBT people,” and said that even as we celebrate the final repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the LGBT community must “redouble our efforts for the fights that remain ahead.”

In other news out of D.C., Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts today introduced legislation that would ban discrimination against LGBT people in the housing and credit markets. The Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act would amend the Fair Housing Act to prohibit housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or source of income.  It would also amend the Equal Opportunity Credit Act to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in credit decisions.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler is set to introduce the companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

In a press release sent out by his office, Kerry said: “It’s hard to believe that in 2011, any law-abiding, tax-paying American who can pay the rent can’t live somewhere just because of who they are. Housing discrimination against LGBT Americans is wrong, but today in most states there isn’t a thing you can do about it. This legislation would end discrimination that continues to hurt people.”

—  admin

All families deserve equal access to housing

Editor’s Note: The following article was submitted by U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan in the wake of last week’s announcement that HUD has proposed new rules ensuring that LGBT families will not face discrimination in access to housing.

SHAUN DONOVAN  |  Special Contributor

Martin Luther King Jr. famously said that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Last month, we were reminded of Dr. King’s insight once again, as President Barack Obama signed legislation repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” into law.

It was a moment, the president noted, “more than two centuries in the making.”

The historic repeal of DADT is only one part of the Obama administration’s larger fight on behalf of the LGBT community. Whether it is giving same-sex couples hospital visitation rights or  ensuring federal workers can afford long-term care for their partners, this administration is committed to fighting discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

I’m proud that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is part of that commitment, as we work to make inclusivity and diversity cornerstones of America’s housing policy.

Indeed, from conducting the first-ever national study of LGBT housing discrimination to instructing our staff to be vigilant about whether any LGBT-based housing discrimination complaints can be pursued through the Fair Housing Act, we’ve worked to ensure our core housing programs are open to all.

That’s why we recently announced a new rule ensuring LGBT individuals and couples can benefit from HUD programs.

Our proposed regulations will make clear that the term “family” includes LGBT individuals and couples as eligible beneficiaries of our public housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs.

Unfortunately, while HUD programs are designed and administered to provide a decent home for every American, we’ve seen evidence that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and families are being arbitrarily excluded from some housing opportunities.

For instance, two years ago Michelle DeShane, a lesbian, wanted to add her partner Mitch, a transgender male, to her housing voucher.  The local housing authority denied her request because the couple did not meet its definition of “family.”

The housing authority then referred the couple to a neighboring housing authority — because, as they were apparently told, the neighboring housing authority “accepts everyone — even Martians.”

That’s not right. No one should be subject to that kind of treatment or denied access to federal housing assistance because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

And so, through this proposed rule, the Obama administration is ensuring that when it comes to housing assistance funded with taxpayer dollars, they won’t be.

Specifically, it adds “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of definitions applicable to HUD programs. It clarifies HUD regulations to ensure that all eligible families have the opportunity to participate in HUD programs regardless of marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity.

And it prohibits inquiries regarding sexual orientation or gender identity and makes clear that gender identity and sexual orientation should not and cannot be part of any lending decision when it comes to getting an FHA-insured mortgage.

Every American family should have the opportunity to make a home for themselves free from discrimination. That is why this rule is so important — and it’s why all of us at HUD are so proud to announce it.

Shaun Donovan is the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 28.

—  John Wright

Lambda Legal releases study on HIV-related stigma, discrimination

In advance of World AIDS Day next Wednesday, Dec. 1, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund has released “HIV Stigma and Discrimination in the U.S.: An Evidence-Based Report,” which focuses on the continuing stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV to policy makers and advocates.

Scott Schoettes, HIV Project staff attorney with Lambda Legal, said over the next year, Lambda Legal continue to press the legislators and policymakers at all levels to address these issues as they imoplement the strategy.

Findings in the report include:

• Nearly 63 percent of the respondents who had HIV reported experiencing discrimination in healthcare.

• A Kaiser Family Foundation report shows that the percentage of people who incorrectly believe that HIV can be transmitted by sharing a drinking glass is actually higher now than in 1987, and the percentage of people who incorrectly believe that transmission can occur by touching a toilet seat actually rose between 2006 and 2009.

• People with HIV are subject to prosecution and/or harsher sentencing for conduct that is not criminal. For example, in 2009, Daniel Allen was charged with violating a Michigan bioterrorism statute outlawing the use of harmful biological substances, based on allegations Allen has HIV and bit his neighbor during a fight. That charge was dismissed.

• Discrimination against people living with HIV as they seek to access elder care occurs throughout the country. Robert Franke, a 75-year-old retired university provost and former minister, was abruptly ejected from an assisted living facility in Little Rock, Ark., in 2009 because he has HIV. Representing Franke and his daughter, Lambda Legal sued the company operating the facility, alleging violations of the ADA and the federal Fair Housing Act, as well as similar state antidiscrimination laws.

This case recently settled.

To see the complete report, go online to LambdaLegal.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens