Banning Anti-Gay Housing Discrimination Could Impact our Rights Say Catholic Bishops

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has said planned regulation changes that would make it an offense to discriminate against housing applicants on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity are “at odds” with the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and would put religious freedom at risk.

In January the HUD went public with a proposed rule to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity for those receiving its assistance programs, a change that could impact over 4.4 million housing units throughout the United States.

However, in a letter sent last Friday to the HUD, bishops say they object as they fear it will mean they must choose between their beliefs and HUD funds.

From The Advocate:

The regulations, being considered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, are” at odds” with the Defense of Marriage Act and could force faith-based programs receiving HUD funds to violate their religious beliefs by providing housing to gay couples or unmarried straight couples, lawyers for the Catholic group said in comments filed with HUD last Friday.

HUD released the regulations for public comment in January, with Secretary Shaun Donovan calling the nondiscrimination provisions “a fundamental issue of fairness.” They do not require congressional approval, but HUD officials can adopt them as they see fit after considering public input. They would apply to both rental housing and homeownership programs that receive HUD assistance.

The bishops’ group does not want to see any individual denied housing, but shared housing is another matter, wrote general counsel Anthony Picarello and associate general counsel Michael Moses. They said they fear that faith-based groups will be forced, “as a condition of participating in HUD programs and in contravention of their religious beliefs, to facilitate shared housing arrangements between persons who are not joined in the legal union of one man and one woman.”

To reiterate, the change to HUD regulations would only impact those receiving HUD assistance and therefore would not alter how private institutions are regulated.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops cites that no Act of Congress has ever protected LGBTs in this way, and that the change might be seen to conflict with the Defense of Marriage Act that bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

However, the HUD can change its regulations independent of Congress so the lack of specific protections is rather moot, and while the HUD must honor DOMA like any federal agency, it may be argued that the regulation change in no way recognizes same-sex marriages but only allows for consenting adults to choose who they cohabit with free from sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination. 

Over the past few years religious institutions have decided to close affiliated adoption and fostering agencies due to their unwillingness to comply with local gay-inclusive nondiscrimination laws.

In the case of the Archdiocese of Washington, for instance, the diocese refused to comply with the import of the District of Columbia’s legalization of same-sex marriage which meant that married same-sex couples wanting to adopt had to be treated the same as their straight counterparts. The agency cited its right to religious freedom of conscience and expression being infringed and therefore closed its doors rather than cater to all. Gay rights supporters cited that such agencies enjoy public funds and therein should comply with local nondiscrimination protections.

This reticence to accommodate gay rights in the wider public sphere would again highlight a seeming disparity in the conduct of church officials and how the general consensus of American Catholics feel. A recent survey of American Catholics found that a majority support marriage rights for same-sex couples and that 73% of Catholics said they favor gay-inclusive employment nondiscrimination laws. When asked how they would rate the Church’s handling of homosexuality few were totally satisfied. You can read more about the survey here.

Related Reading:

View the Proposed HUD Rule

HUD Implements First Policy Change to Help Prevent LGBT Housing Discrimination

HUD Wants Your Help to End Anti-Gay Housing Discrimination

Read the text of the Fair and Inclusive Housing Rights Act of 2010

Read the text of the Housing Nondiscrimination Act of 2010

HUD’s announcement of the policy change.

Which states/districts/principalities have home buyer protections for LGBTs? 
Renter’s Rights Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination

The current situation on federal housing and sexual orientation discrimination.

What existing laws/rights can help LGBT home buyers who face housing discrimination?

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to woodleywonderworks.


Mariana L
Mariana Labout a year ago


vicki fellner
Victoria Fellner6 years ago

Civil rights should trump religious rights everytime. Tax the churches that are sticking their noses where they don't belong.

Barbara Cindric
Barbara Cindric6 years ago

WELLLLL let me see. Muslims can demand all sort of religious right (cultural to for that matter) But when catholics say that they have a religious objection to something then,they are wrong. Give me a break!! The beliefs of this faith are their beliefs and seperation of church and state,is forcing them to not accept funds do to the demands of the gov. What the hell is wrong with that. What's good for the goose is good for the gander!!!

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal6 years ago

Would the bishops be willing to rent room and board in their own condos for those who are discriminated against?

Armand F.
Armand F6 years ago

The "Separation of Church and State" must work both ways. Church, in all of its forms, must be completely separated from ALL state issues and the state must be completely separate from ALL church issues. That means that the government should provide no benefits to religion and religions should not be involved in political/state matters in any form. They are separate for a very good reason, they have mutually exclusive agendas. One deals with spirituality and the other deals with secular matters. Until this nation fully understands what separation means and puts that into full effect we will continue to have these major problems.

Allan Yorkowitz
.6 years ago

Where does the Catholic Church have the nerve..why are you involved in HUD funding any way? Is this not a conflict between church, and state funding?

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin6 years ago

To the catholic church:
1. Don't take public money if you can't abide with public law.
2. There's no such right that ensures religious believers to discriminate.
3. Freedom of religion is not a statue to use when it pleases you and deny others the rights you claim.
4. The catholic church are the richest institution in the world. Its enormous wealth could easily be used to eradicate poverty and help children everywhere get an education.
Stop taking public money, use your own and let there be a complete separation of state and church.
Freedom of religion is also freedom from religion.

As always: Religion IS an opium for the people!

Doug D.
Doug D6 years ago

We must remain secular and keep church and state separate.

Karen Simons
Karen Simons6 years ago

CAtholic bishops are in no position to be for or against this. They who sleep in glass houses should not throw the first stone. Who gives a great big DANG what they think, how they feel, where they live? The very fact that they would have the the ...YOU make such a statement proves just how warped they really are. Worse yet, they are advocating keeping a small group of people available for violence of all kinds. Please check out your own copy of the THE GRAND INQUISITOR'S MANUAL to see just how creepy these guys are.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L6 years ago

Faith base programs should NOT be funded by the Federal Government, which comes from our tax dollars. The Catholic Church has more money than they know what to do with. If you don't think so go to Vatican City.