HUD Campaigns Against LGBT Discrimination; Bishops Object
April 2011: Since its proposal of a new federal regulation banning housing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals earlier this year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has launched a new media campaign, “Live Free.” Among other things, the campaign will strive to ensure that people have equal access to housing regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Live Free campaign will run throughout the year and include Facebook ads, targeted print ads, digital videos, and podcasts.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status—that is, families with children. Although sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected characteristics under the FHA, HUD says that housing discrimination against someone who is LGBT may, in certain circumstances, violate other provisions of the FHA, such as the ban on gender discrimination.
“While 20 states and over 200 local governments have led the way to make LGBT-related housing discrimination illegal, HUD is firmly committed to supporting the right of LGBT individuals and families to lead productive and dignified lives, free from housing discrimination and fear of retaliation, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity John Trasviña said in a statement. “HUD is finalizing a federal rule to ensure that HUD housing and programs are open to all, irrespective of marital status, gender identity, and sexual orientation.”
Meanwhile, however, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has urged HUD not to adopt the proposed regulation against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in HUD programs.
In comments filed with HUD last month, USCCB attorneys noted that, when it comes to orientation and gender identity, “a protected classification for purposes of federal housing programs has no support in any Act of Congress and appears at odds with at least one other, namely, the Defense of Marriage Act.” They added that “the regulations may force faith-based and other organizations, as a condition of participating in HUD programs and in contravention of their religious beliefs, to facilitate shared housing arrangements between persons who are not joined in the legal union of one man and one woman.”
“By this, we do not mean that any person should be denied housing. Making decisions about shared housing, however, is another matter,” the attorneys noted. “Particularly here, faith-based and other organizations should retain the freedom they have always had to make housing placements in a manner consistent with their religious beliefs, including when it concerns a cohabiting couple, be it an unmarried heterosexual couple or a homosexual couple. Given the very large role that faith-based organizations play in HUD programs, the regulation, by infringing upon that freedom, may have the ultimate effect of driving away organizations with a long and successful track record in meeting housing needs, leaving beneficiaries without the housing that they sought or that the government intended them to receive.”
Source: HUD; U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops