The Obama administration released three major LGBT rights advances this afternoon. None are as sexy as repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell or the Defense of Marriage Act, but - make no mistake - they are part of the foundation for full equality.
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it was clarifying the definition of "family" to explicitly include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in regulatory and policy changes pertaining to housing and home ownership.
- HUD also announced it would immediately begin the "first-ever national study of discrimination against members of the LGBT community in the rental and sale of housing."
- The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it would create a national resource center to assist LGBT elders.
When the government study shows that housing discrimination is a problem for the LGBT community - and we know it will - how much easier will it make it to pass housing protections for our community? NGLTF Executive Director Rea Carey says it all, "We're talking about one of the most fundamental needs a person can have: shelter. All people should be able to obtain affordable housing free from discrimination; a safe place to live, a roof over one's head."
A couple of you have e-mailed already that a senior resource center is "not enough" or "a pittance." The federal government is honoring and assisting our LGBT seniors. What have you done lately to help one of our community elders? If the feds are doing more than you are, you have no room to complain.
These three tidbits will lead to housing protections legislation for the LGBT community; our national organization aren't even pushing that lately. Hopefully that means housing protections won't take as long to become reality as some of the campaign promises we've been working towards for years. (Which at this point are still mostly pipe dreams and promises than anything tangible.) Still, you can't expect Obama to walk into office, wave a fairy wand and make everything okay no matter how much I wish it were that simple.
Press releases after the jump.
U.S. Housing and Urban Development Press Release
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO ENSURE INCLUSION OF THE LGBT COMMUNITY IN HUD PROGRAMS
Commissions first-ever national study of discrimination against members of the LGBT community in the renting and sale of housing
WASHINGTON - U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan today announced a series of proposals to ensure that HUD's core housing programs are open to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
"The evidence is clear that some are denied the opportunity to make housing choices in our nation based on who they are and that must end," said Donovan. "President Obama and I are determined that a qualified individual and family will not be denied housing choice based on sexual orientation or gender identity."
The initiatives announced today will be a proposed rule that will provide the opportunity for public comment. The proposed rule will:
- clarify that the term "family" as used to describe eligible beneficiaries of our public housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs include otherwise eligible lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender (LGBT) individuals and couples. HUD's public housing and voucher programs help more than three million families to rent an affordable home. The Department's intent to propose new regulations will clarify family status to ensure its subsidized housing programs are available to all families, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- require grantees and those who participate in the Department's programs to comply with local and state non-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation or gender identity; and
- specify that any FHA-insured mortgage loan must be based on the credit-worthiness of a borrower and not on unrelated factors or characteristics such as sexual orientation or gender identity.
In addition to issuance of proposed rule, HUD will commission the first-ever national study of discrimination against members of the LGBT community in the rental and sale of housing.
HUD expects to begin the regulatory process immediately. The LGBT discrimination study is similarly fast tracked. HUD undertook important research in 1977, 1989 and 2000 to study the impact of housing discrimination on the basis of race and color. It is believed that LGBT individuals and families may remain silent because in many local jurisdictions, they may have little or no legal recourse. HUD's study will examine housing discrimination based on Sexual orientation or gender identity.
While there are no national assessments of LGBT housing discrimination, there are state and local studies that have shown this sort of bias. For example, Michigan's Fair Housing Centers found that nearly 30 percent of same-sex couples were treated differently when attempting to buy or rent a home (http://www.fhcmichigan.org/images/Arcus_web1.pdf).
HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to sustaining homeownership; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development and enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov.
US Department of Health and Human Services Press Release
HHS to Create a National Resource Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Elders
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced plans to establish the nation's first national resource center to assist communities across the country in their efforts to provide services and supports for older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals.
Experts estimate that as many as 1.5 to 4 million LGBT individuals are age 60 and older. Agencies that provide services to older individuals may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the needs of this group of individuals. The new Resource Center for LGBT Elders will provide information, assistance and resources for both LGBT organizations and mainstream aging services providers at the state and community level to assist them in the development and provision of culturally sensitive supports and services. The LGBT Center will also be available to educate the LGBT community about the importance of planning ahead for future long term care needs.
The LBGT Resource Center will help community-based organizations understand the unique needs and concerns of older LGBT individuals and assist them in implementing programs for local service providers, including providing help to LGBT caregivers who are providing care for an older partner with health or other challenges.
The Administration on Aging will award a single Resource Center grant at approximately $250,000 per year, pending availability of funds. Eligible entities will include public-private nonprofit organizations with experience working on LGBT issues on a national level. The funding announcement for the Resource Center will be made available on the following website very soon. http://www.aoa.gov/AoARoot/Grants/Funding/index.aspx