The Fair and Equal Housing Act would provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people in housing by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected characteristics under the Fair Housing Act.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people face significant levels of discrimination in housing, which can take a variety of forms. LGBTQ people are at risk of being
denied, charged higher rates for, or removed from housing. Currently, there is no federal law that consistently protects LGBTQ individuals from housing discrimination.
A 2013 study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development showed that same-sex couples experience significant levels of discrimination when responding to advertised rental housing in metropolitan areas nationwide. In this study, heterosexual couples were favored over same-sex couples by sixteen percent. For transgender people, housing discrimination is even more prevalent. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, nearly one quarter of transgender people report having experienced housing discrimination within the past year because of their gender identity.
The Fair and Equal Housing Act would provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people in housing by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected characteristics under the Fair Housing Act, which currently prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, and national origin. The Fair and Equal Housing Act also clarifies existing law to ensure that housing protections apply to anyone who experiences discrimination because they are perceived as or associate with someone of a different race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, familial status, or national origin.
As of March 2021, 27 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination in housing based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. Another state, Wisconsin, bans discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation only.
In June 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity because they are types of sex discrimination. While this landmark ruling is a crucial step forward in addressing discrimination against LGBTQ people, the Equality Act is still necessary. President Biden issued an executive order directing agencies to appropriately interpret the Bostock ruling to apply not just to employment discrimination, but to other areas of law where sex discrimination is prohibited, including housing, education, and health care. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has begun implementation of these protections. However, a future administration may refuse to interpret the law this way, leaving these protections vulnerable. Congress must codify the Bostock decision by passing measures like the Fair and Equal Housing Act to ensure future administrations fully enforce non-discrimination laws.
The bipartisan Fair and Equal Housing Act was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL) and Susan Brooks (R-IN) on May 20, 2019 and in the Senate by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) on April 30, 2019.
The Fair and Equal Housing Act has yet to be reintroduced in the 117th Congress.