September 22, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
New bills target LGBT discrimination in housing

Sen. John Kerry (photo courtesy of kerry.senate.gov)

Legislation was introduced on Thursday in both chambers of Congress that would amend existing federal law to protect LGBT people in the housing and credit markets.

The legislation, which was introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) in the House and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in the Senate, is known as the Housing Opportunities Made Equal Act, or HOME Act.

The measures would amend the Fair Housing Act to prohibit housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as marital status and source of income. Additionally, the bills would amend the Equal Opportunity Credit Act to prohibit LGBT discrimination in credit decisions.

The legislation would outlaw housing discrimination both before and after a housing unit is acquired; bolster non-discrimination protections for the disabled and LGBT parents with children; and provide the U.S. attorney general with pre-litigation investigative power to enforce the law.

In a statement, Nadler said the bill is necessary to ensure LGBT people aren’t ”subjected to housing discrimination at the hands of the unscrupulous or bigoted.”

“This legislation will ensure that the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act are actually protecting all Americans and guaranteeing people of any sexual orientation, gender identity, marital and familial status, and source of income the right to the housing they choose,” Nadler said.

In the House, the legislation will likely be referred to the House Judiciary Committee and the House Financial Services Committee. Co-sponsors of the bill, all Democrats, are Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) and Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) as well as gay Rep. Jared Polis.

Nadler previously introduced the bill in the 111th Congress. Kerry’s introduction of the bill marks in the Senate the first time the legislation has made an appearance in that chamber.

In a statement, Kerry said the legislation “would end discrimination that continues to hurt people” in the housing and credit markets.

“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,” Kerry said. “Housing discrimination against LGBT Americans is wrong, but today in most states there isn’t a thing you can do about it.”

In the Senate, the legislation would likely be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Kerry’s bill has seven co-sponsors — all Democrats: Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.).

In a Sept. 21 letter, 17 organizations — including the Human Rights Campaign, the Family Equality Council and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force Action Fund — announced their support for the legislation.

Jeff Krehely, director of the LGBT research and communications project at the Center for American Progress, said the legislation would address serious problem affecting the LGBT community.

“Gay and transgender Americans continue to experience high rates of discrimination in the housing and rental markets,” Krehely said. “This includes being denied housing, quoted higher rent prices, and even evicted from their homes, simply because they are gay or transgender. If passed, this legislation would provide crucial protections necessary to protect all Americans from discrimination.”

Shanna Smith, CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance, said the legislation would bring the Fair Housing Act into the 21st century.

“Housing discrimination is wrong and runs counter to the American spirit of opportunity,” she said. “It’s time we leave intolerance and bigotry in America’s dark history of senseless exclusion and instead continue to march on the path to equality.”

In January, the Department of Housing & Urban Development proposed a new rule to bar discrimination against LGBT people in federally funded and federally regulated housing programs. However, this rule has yet to be made final.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

1 Comment
  • I think this is fabulous. Being from Ga, I live in one of those states that offers no legal recourse against LGBT discrimination in the housing sector. This is another step on the path to full equality.

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