Earlier today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Angus King (I-ME) introduced the Fair and Equal Housing Act of 2019, a bill that would add gender identity and sexual orientation to the classes protected from discrimination under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) to ensure equal housing opportunities for all Americans. The FHA prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or disability but not sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, 21 states, the District of Columbia, and over 200 localities protect sexual orientation and gender identity in their housing discrimination statutes.
“I began my career as a fair housing lawyer and I saw firsthand how housing has the power to influence families’ health, stability, economic prospects, and the futures they build. No American should be turned away from a house because of who they love, but that’s the reality many LGBTQ Americans face when they look for a home. As Fair Housing Month comes to a close, I hope my colleagues will join me in pushing to add gender identity and sexual orientation to the classes protected under the Fair Housing Act. This is about ensuring all Americans have equal access to housing,” Kaine said.
“All Americans deserve a fair and equal opportunity in the sale, rental, or financing of housing,” said Collins. “Throughout my Senate service, I have worked to end discrimination against LGBTQ Americans, and it is time we ensure that all people have full access to housing regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. I urge our colleagues to join us in supporting this important legislation.”
“Safe and affordable housing is the basic building block for all Americans seeking to achieve economic, educational, and personal success,” said King. “No one should be denied access to this vital resource because of who they are – but unfortunately, under current law there are no protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This is wrong, plain and simple. We need this legislation to make sure LGBTQ Americans have the same access to housing as anyone else.”
National data continues to show that same-sex couples “face higher barriers to access rental housing” and that there are higher levels of discrimination against same-sex couples of color, even in localities that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This data also demonstrates that same-sex applicants are much more likely to be denied a mortgage and pay higher fees than heterosexual couples.
A 2018 study of housing discrimination found that rental unit inquiries by LGBTQ couples were more likely to be ignored than couples not perceived to be LGBTQ. The study also suggests that stronger federal and state antidiscrimination laws are needed.
During his legal career, Kaine worked as a fair housing lawyer from 1984 to 2001. Throughout that time, his cases were focused on implementing provisions of the Fair Housing Act throughout Virginia. As a lawyer in Richmond, he represented HOME in its historic suit against Nationwide Mutual Insurance for industry-wide discriminatory redlining practices in the issuance of homeowners insurance.
The Fair and Equal Housing Act of 2019 is supported by the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals, National Association of Realtors, National Housing Law Project, National Low Income Housing Coalition, Equality Virginia, and Human Rights Campaign.
In addition to Kaine, Collins, and King, this legislation is cosponsored by Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Tina Smith (D-MN).
Text of the legislation can be read in full here.