HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announces new LGBT housing discrimination protections at Creating Change

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announces the new rule.

Today, while addressing nearly 3,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights advocates at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s 24th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced a new HUD policy to fight discrimination against LGBT people in federally supported housing programs.

The new rules, to be published next week, will help LGBT people and their families across the country stay in their homes, get the loans they need to buy homes, and access life-saving federal assistance programs to help get low-income people and families back on their feet.

Donovan is the first sitting Cabinet secretary in history to speak at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change, the country’s largest annual gathering of LGBT rights advocates. They have been meeting this week in Baltimore to strategize and mobilize in this critical election year.

“I’m here this afternoon because our president and his administration believe the LGBT community deserves a place at the table — and also a place to call home. Each of us here knows that rights most folks take for granted are routinely violated against LGBT people,” Donovan said. “That’s why I’m proud to stand before you this afternoon and say HUD has been a leader in the fight — your fight and my fight — for equality. Over the last three years, we have worked to ensure that our housing programs are open. Not to some. Not to most. But open to all.”

Donovan spotlighted steps HUD has already taken to help protect LGBT people from housing-related discrimination. This work includes protecting LGBT people from discrimination under the Fair Housing Act and collecting data to better understand how same-sex couples suffer housing discrimination.

Donovan then unveiled the latest step.

“Today, I am proud to announce a new Equal Access to Housing Rule that says clearly and unequivocally that LGBT individuals and couples have the right to live where they choose. This is an idea whose time has come,” he said.

Donovan outlined the scope of the new rule.

“First and foremost, this rule includes a new equal access provision that prohibits owners and operators of HUD-funded housing, or housing whose financing we insure, from inquiring about an applicant’s sexual orientation or gender identity or denying housing on that basis. If you are denying HUD housing to people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity — actual or perceived — you’re discriminating, you’re breaking the law — and you will be held accountable. That’s what equal access means, and that’s what this rule is going to do.”

He continued, “Secondly, this rule makes clear that LGBT families … are eligible for HUD’s public housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs that collectively serve 5.5 million people. Third, the rule also makes clear that sexual orientation and gender identity should not and cannot be part of any lending decision when it comes to getting a mortgage insured by the FHA — part of HUD.”

This announcement marks another victory for the New Beginning Initiative, a coalition of more than two dozen organizations convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, working to change how the federal government treats LGBT people and their families. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force applauds the work of its coalition partners to secure this win for LGBT people and their families.

“Thanks to your leadership in convening the New Beginning Initiative, together we have made extraordinary progress, creating changes throughout the administration that have improved the day-to-day lives of LGBT people across the country,” Donovan said.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, praised today’s announcement and spoke of its vital importance to the lives of LGBT people.

“This policy announced today by Secretary Donovan will literally save lives. LGBT people and their families all across the country depend on HUD programs to have a roof over their head. Unfortunately, there are landlords out there who would choose to discriminate, putting families in peril,” Carey said. “These housing protections will reduce homelessness and increase economic security for LGBT people, which helps break the cycle of poverty that many families experience due to discrimination.”

She added, “This announcement could not have been made to a more appropriate crowd — the thousands of LGBT activists working on the ground in all of the states across the country who see the impacts of housing discrimination every day. We thank President Obama and Secretary Donovan for their recognition of the importance of housing security and their continued commitment to ending discrimination against LGBT people.”

Read Secretary Shaun Donovan’s full remarks at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change here: