COACH’s Pop Quiz!

July 24, 2012
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Q: Even though federal fair housing law doesn’t ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, a community could face a fair housing complaint if it treats applicants or residents differently because of their sexual orientation. True or false?

A: True. Federal fair housing law doesn’t protect sexual orientation, but communities could be liable for treating applicants and residents differently based on sexual orientation under applicable state or local law. Furthermore, HUD has adopted rules banning housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public and federally assisted housing.

Q: Under state or local law, a community cannot be liable for housing discrimination based on sexual orientation unless the applicant or resident is gay, lesbian, or bisexual. True or false?

A: False. Liability under state and local laws protecting sexual orientation isn’t limited to discrimination against applicants or residents who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Many state and local laws also protect both sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. In addition, those laws generally ban discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, so a community could be liable under state or local law for discriminating against an applicant based on a mistaken belief about his or her sexual orientation.

Q: A male resident has reported that your maintenance man has been sexually harassing him. Your community could be liable for sexual harassment if you fail to take appropriate action to investigate and resolve the complaint. True or false?

A: True. Federal fair housing law protects both men and women from sex discrimination, including same-sex sexual harassment. Whether motivated by sexual desire or by hostility toward a particular gender, sexual harassment is unlawful—even if the harasser and the victim are of the same sex.

COACH’s Tip: There has been a great deal of recent political and legal activity surrounding the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity—notably, President Obama’s declaration of support for same-sex marriage this past June. For a review of these developments and what they mean for multifamily housing communities, see our recent “Special Issue: Legal Update on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Same-Sex Marriage,” available on our homepage.