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LGBT non-discrimination rules proposed for housing

Obama administration vows strict enforcement in federal programs

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Shaun Donovan (Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed a new rule Thursday that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in federally funded and federally regulated housing programs.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, speaking on behalf of President Obama, said the sweeping new rule would cover a wide range of programs serving millions of Americans, including low-income subsidized housing and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage insurance programs.

“This is a fundamental issue of fairness,” Donovan said. “With this proposed rule, we will make clear that a person’s eligibility for federal housing programs is, and should be, based on their need and not on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

HUD officials said that under standard rulemaking procedures, the proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register and open for public comment during a 60-day comment period. After that, the administration expects to finalize and fine-tune the rule and put it into effect, HUD officials said.

In a statement released Thursday, HUD said the proposed rule includes these main elements:

*It prohibits lenders from “using sexual orientation or gender identity as a basis to determine a borrower’s eligibility for FHA-insured mortgage financing.”

*It clarifies that “families” that are otherwise eligible for HUD programs, “may not be excluded because one or more members of the family may be an LGBT individual, have an LGBT relationship, or be perceived to be such an individual or in such a relationship.”

*It prohibits owners and operators of HUD-assisted housing or housing whose financing is insured by HUD “from inquiring about the sexual orientation or gender identity of an application for, or occupant of, the dwelling, whether renter or owner-occupied. “

The HUD statement says the agency “is proposing to institute this policy in its rental assistance and home ownership programs, which include the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage insurance programs, community development programs, and public and assisted housing programs.”

In a telephone news conference, Donovan said the new rule also requires applicants seeking federal housing grants for a wide range of housing programs to comply with state and local anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT people in 21 states. He said the protections under this provision would cover 43 percent of the U.S. population.

He said HUD was also conducting a first-ever national study of discrimination against LGBT people in the rental and sale of housing. He said the study broadens HUD’s existing studies that regularly measure housing discrimination based on race.

Donovan and Deputy HUD Secretary Neil Coleman said HUD carefully reviewed various federal housing laws to determine where HUD could intervene to bar sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination under existing law.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), an LGBT civil rights bill that has been stalled in Congress for nearly 20 years, does not include protections for housing related discrimination.

LGBT supportive members of Congress and mainline LGBT advocacy groups in Washington, like the Human Rights Campaign, have said an incremental approach of pushing first for legislation limited to employment protection represents the best way to achieve approval of such legislation.

Some LGBT activists have called for the immediate introduction of a broader LGBT civil rights bill that covers housing, public accommodations and other areas in addition to employment. So far, no lawmaker as introduced such a bill.

Most political observers say no LGBT supportive legislation is expected to emerge from Congress over the next two years because the Republican controlled House of Representatives would block the legislation.

HRC praised HUD’s proposed rule on LGBT housing discrimination. In a statement, it said the rule touches on some of the proposals in a package of 70 recommendations it submitted to the Obama administration two years ago aimed at improving the lives of LGBT people through executive action rather than legislation.

“The policies proposed today will help some of the most vulnerable people in our community and the nationwide survey will finally shed light on the discrimination LGBT people face every day in trying to make homes for themselves and their families,” HRC president Joe Solmonese said.

“Since the administration began, HRC staff have met and communicated with numerous federal agencies on how to implement these polices,” the HRC statement says. “Addressing discrimination in federal housing programs was part of HRC’s recommendations for HUD.”

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National

63% of LGBTQ people have faced employment discrimination: report

Finding shows majority ‘don’t feel included and welcomed at work’

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A majority of LGBTQ+ workers have experienced discrimination, according to a new study.

A newly released report on the findings of a survey of 2,000 people in the U.S. who identify as LGBTQ says 63 percent of respondents have faced workplace discrimination in their career, 45 percent reported being “passed over” for a promotion due to their LGBTQ status, and 30 percent avoid “coming out” at work due to fear of discrimination.

The report, called “Unequal Opportunities: LGBTQ+ Discrimination In The Workplace,” was conducted by EduBirdie, a company that provides s professional essay writing service for students.

“The research shows basic acceptance remains elusive,” a statement released by the company says. “Thirty percent of LGBTQ+ people are  concerned they will face discrimination if they come out at work, while 1 in 4 fear for their safety,” the statement says. “Alarmingly, 2 in 5 have had their orientation or identity disclosed without consent.”

Avery Morgan, an EduBirdie official, says in the statement, “Despite progress in LGBTQ+ human rights, society stigma persists. Our findings show 70% of LGBTQ+ people feel lonely, misunderstood, marginalized, or excluded at work, and 59% believe their sexual orientation or gender identity has hindered their careers.”

According to Morgan, “One of the biggest challenges businesses should be aware of is avoiding tokenism and appearing inauthentic in their actions. Employers must be genuine with their decisions to bring a more diverse workforce into the organization.”

The report includes these additional findings:

• 44% of LGBTQ people responding to the survey said they have quit a job due to lack of acceptance.

• 15% reported facing discrimination “going unaddressed” by their employer.

• 21% “choose not to report incidents that occur at work.”

• 44% of LGBTQ+ workers feel their company is bad at raising awareness about their struggles.

• Half of LGBTQ+ people change their appearance, voice, or mannerisms to fit in at work.

• 56% of LGBTQ+ people would be more comfortable coming out at work if they had a more senior role.

At least 32 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The EduBirdie report does not show which states participants of the survey are from. EduBirdie spokesperson Anna Maglysh told the Washington Blade the survey was conducted anonymously to protect the privacy of participants.

The full report can be accessed here.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal court blocks Title IX transgender protections

Ruling applies to Idaho, La., Miss., and Mont.

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(Bigstock photo)

BY GREG LAROSE | A federal judge has temporarily halted enforcement of new rules from the Biden administration that would prevent discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty of Louisiana issued a temporary injunction Thursday that blocks updated Title IX policy from taking effect Aug. 1 in Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Montana. 

In April, the U.S. Department of Education announced it would expand Title IX to protect LGBTQ students, and the four aforementioned states challenged the policy in federal court.

Doughty said in his order that Title IX, the 52-year-old civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination, only applies to biological women. The judge also called out the Biden administration for overstepping its authority. 

“This case demonstrates the abuse of power by executive federal agencies in the rule-making process,” Doughty wrote. “The separation of powers and system of checks and balances exist in this country for a reason.”

The order from Doughty, a federal court appointee of President Donald Trump, keeps the updated Title IX regulations from taking effect until the court case is resolved or a higher court throws out the order.

Opponents of the Title IX rule changes have said conflating gender identity with sex would undermine protections in federal law and ultimately harm biological women. Gender identity refers to the gender an individual identifies as, which might differ from the sex they were assigned at birth.

Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill, who filed the suit in the state’s Western District federal court, had called the new regulations “dangerous and unlawful.” In a statement Thursday evening, she said the rules would have placed an unfair burden on every school, college and university in the country.

“This (is) a victory for women and girls,” Murrill said in the statement. “When Joe Biden forced his illegal and radical gender ideology on America, Louisiana said NO! Along with Idaho, Mississippi, and Montana, states are fighting back in defense of the law, the safety and prosperity of women and girls, and basic American values.”

Title IX is considered a landmark policy that provided for equal access for women in educational settings and has been applied to academic and athletic pursuits. 

Related

Doughty’s order comes a day after a similar development in Texas, where Judge Reed O’Connor, an appointee of President George W. Bush, declared that the Biden administration exceeded its authority, the Texas Tribune reported. 

Texas filed its own lawsuit against the federal government to block enforcement of the new rules, which Gov. Greg Abbott had instructed schools to ignore. Texas is one of several states to approve laws that prohibit transgender student-athletes from participating on sports teams that align with their gender identity.

Attorney generals in 26 states have originated or joined federal lawsuits to stop the new Title IX regulations from taking effect. 

Earlier Thursday, Republicans in Congress moved ahead with their effort to undo the revised Biden Title IX policy. Nearly 70 GOP lawmakers have signed onto legislation to reverse the education department’s final rule through the Congressional Review Act, which Congress can use to overturn certain federal agency actions.

Biden is expected to veto the legislation if it advances to his desk.

“Title IX has paved the way for our girls to access new opportunities in education, scholarships and athletics. Unfortunately, (President) Joe Biden is destroying all that progress,” U.S. Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.), author of the legislation, said Thursday.

States Newsroom Reporter Shauneen Miranda in D.C. contributed to this report.

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Greg LaRose

Greg LaRose has covered news for more than 30 years in Louisiana. Before coming to the Louisiana Illuminator, he was the chief investigative reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans. He previously led the government and politics team for The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com, and was editor in chief at New Orleans CityBusiness. Greg’s other career stops include Tiger Rag, South Baton Rouge Journal, the Covington News Banner, Louisiana Radio Network and multiple radio stations.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Louisiana Illuminator and is republished with permission.

The Louisiana Illuminator is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization with a mission to cast light on how decisions in Baton Rouge are made and how they affect the lives of everyday Louisianians. Our in-depth investigations and news stories, news briefs and commentary help residents make sense of how state policies help or hurt them and their neighbors statewide.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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Federal Government

Adm. Levine, Admin. Guzman visit LGBTQ-owned dental and medical practices

Officials talked with the Blade about supporting small businesses

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Second from left, Dr. Robert McKernan, co-founder of Big Gay Smiles, U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Isabel Guzman, HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Rachel Levine, Big Gay Smiles Co-Founder Tyler Dougherty, and SBA Washington Metropolitan Area District Director Larry Webb. (Washington Blade photo by Christopher Kane)

The Washington Blade joined Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Rachel Levine of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Administrator Isabel Guzman of the U.S. Small Business Administration as they toured two LGBTQ-owned small businesses on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. — Big Gay Smiles and Price Medical.

The event provided an “amazing opportunity” to “talk about the different synergies in terms of small businesses and the SBA, and health equity for many communities,” including the LGBTQ community, Levine told the Blade.

Representation matters, she said, adding, “that’s true in dental care and medical care,” where there is a tremendous need to push for improvements in health equity — which represents a major focus for HHS under her and Secretary Xavier Becerra’s leadership, and in the Biden-Harris administration across the board.

“Small businesses identify needs in communities,” Guzman said. With Big Gay Smiles, Dr. Robert McKernan and his husband Tyler Dougherty “have clearly identified a need” for “dentistry that is inclusive and that is respectful of the LGBTQIA community in particular.”

She added, “now that they’re a newly established business, part of the small business boom in the Biden-Harris administration, to see their growth and trajectory, it’s wonderful to know that there are going to be providers out there providing that missing support.”

The practice, founded in 2021, “is so affirming for the LGBTQIA community and we certainly wish them luck with their venture and they seem to have a great start,” Levine said. “They’re really dedicated to ending the HIV epidemic, providing excellent dental care, as well as oral cancer screenings, which are so important, and they’re really providing a real service to the community.”

Big Gay Smiles donates 10 percent of its revenue to national and local HIV/AIDS nonprofits. McKernan and Dougherty stressed that their business is committed to combatting homophobia and anti-LGBTQ attitudes and practices within the dental field more broadly.

“We try to align our practices here within this dental office to align with the strategic initiatives being able to help reduce HIV transmission, reduce stigma, and help to ensure people have the knowledge and [are] empowered to ensure that they’re safe,” Dougherty said.

McKernan added, “With the Academy of General Dentistry, we’ve done a lot of discussions around intersex, around trans affirming care, in order to help educate our fellow dental providers. It’s very important that every dentist here in the [D.C. area] provide trans affirming care and gender affirming care because it’s very important that someone who comes to a medical provider not be deadnamed, not get misnamed, and have an affirming environment.”

Trans and gender expansive communities face barriers to accessing care and are at higher risk for oral cancer, depression, and dental neglect. Levine, who is the country’s highest-ranking transgender government official, shared that she has encountered discrimination in dental offices.

After touring the office, Levine and McKernan discussed the persistence of discrimination against patients living with HIV/AIDS by dental practices, despite the fact that this conduct is illegal.

“I’ve traveled around the country,” the assistant health secretary told the Blade. “We have seen that many FQHCs [federally qualified health centers] or community health centers as well as LGBTQIA community health centers have had dentists, like Whitman-Walker, to provide that care because many people with HIV and in our broader community have faced stigma and have not been able to access very, very important dental care.”

Prior to opening his practice, McKernan practiced dentistry at Whitman-Walker, the D.C. nonprofit community health center that has expertise in treating LGBTQ patients and those living with HIV/AIDS. Big Gay Smiles is a red ribbon sponsor for the organization’s Walk & 5K to End HIV.

After their visit with Big Gay Smiles, Levine and Guzman headed to Price Medical, a practice whose focus areas include internal medicine/primary care, HIV specialty care, immunizations, infectious disease treatment, and aesthetics like Botox.

There, the officials talked with Dr. Timothy Price about his office’s work advancing health equity and serving LGBTQ patients including those living with HIV/AIDS, as well as the ways in which small businesses like his have benefitted from access to electronic health records and telemedicine.

Levine, Dr. Timothy Price of Price Medical, and Guzman 

“People being able to access medical care from the comfort of their home or workplace can be very important,” Price said, with technology providing the means by which they can “ask questions and get an answer and have access to a health care provider.”

Often, LGBTQ patients will have concerns, including sexual health concerns, that need urgent attention, he said. For instance, “we’ve had patients need to access us for post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV,” in some cases when “people are vacationing and they have something that might be related to their health and they can reach us [via telemedicine] so that’s the way it’s really helped us and helped the patients.”

Access to technology for small businesses is an area in which the SBA can play a valuable role, Guzman noted.

“The Biden-Harris administration has focused on a whole-of-government approach to making sure we can support the community, and that includes in entrepreneurship,” she told the Blade.

“There’s a surge in [small] businesses starting and that includes” those founded by members of the LGBTQ community “and so you see that there’s products and services that need to be offered,” and the administration is “committed to making sure that we can fund those great ideas.”

Guzman said she sees opportunities for future collaboration between her agency and HHS to help encourage and facilitate innovation in the healthcare space. “Small businesses are innovators creating the future of health tech,” she said.

Levine agreed, noting “we have been talking about that, about different ways that we can work together, because as we think about the social determinants of health and those other social factors that impact health, well, economic opportunity is absolutely a social determinant of health,” and small businesses are certainly a critical way to broaden economic opportunity.

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