Senator John Kerry on Thursday introduced legislation to make it illegal to discriminate against LGBT Americans in the housing and credit markets.
The legislation, the Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act, would amend the Fair Housing Act to prohibit housing discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status. It would also bar discrimination on the grounds of source of income and would amend the Equal Opportunity Credit Act to prohibit LGBT discrimination in credit related decisions.
The need to combat anti-LGBT discrimination in the housing and credit sectors has been recognized by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as a cognizable and serious problem. In fact HUD has itself moved to prevent anti-LGBT housing discrimination through its assistance programs but there currently exists no express federal LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination law. However, around 20 states have enacted anti-discrimination protections themselves, while nearly 150 cities have enacted similar ordinances.
Still, in states lacking these protections, prejudiced landlords can still lawfully discriminate against LGBT tenants.
The HOME Act would:
– Amend the Fair Housing Act to prohibit housing discrimination and intimidation on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or source of income.
– Amend the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in access to credit.
– Outlaw housing discrimination both before and after a housing unit is acquired.
– Strengthen anti-discrimination protections for handicapped individuals and LGBT parents with custody of a child.
– Provide the Attorney General with appropriate pre-litigation investigative power to enforce the law.
Statements issued on the legislation’s introduction read:
“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,” said Sen. Kerry. ”Housing discrimination against LGBT Americans is wrong, but today in most states there isn’t a thing you can do about it. This legislation would end discrimination that continues to hurt people.”
“Despite a great deal of progress, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people continue to experience discrimination in all aspects of their lives, including one of the most basic — finding a home for themselves and their families,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. ”We thank Senator Kerry for continuing his leadership toward full legal equality for LGBT Americans by introducing legislation, the first of its kind in the Senate, that would outlaw housing and credit discrimination.”
“We applaud Senator Kerry and Representative Nadler for their efforts to bring the Fair Housing Act into the 21st Century. These much-needed changes to the Act reflect our nation’s commitment to creating stronger, more diverse and inclusive neighborhoods,” said Shanna L. Smith, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. ”Housing discrimination is wrong and runs counter to the American spirit of opportunity. 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.”
Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development went public with a proposed rule to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity under its assistance programs, a change that could impact over 4.4 million housing units throughout the United States. You can read more on that here.
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