LGBTs move closer to federal fair-housing protection
Question: Is it true that Congress has finally added fair-housing protection to LGBT people?
Answer: Congress hasn’t passed any formal legislation to specifically extend federal fair-housing protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual individuals or couples. But a ruling issued earlier this month by a powerful U.S district court judge in Denver could pressure lawmakers into expanding those safeguards to LGBT people sooner rather than later.
The complicated lawsuit was filed by Rachel Smith, a transgender woman, and Tonya Smith. The legally married parents of two young children, their lawsuit claimed that they were denied a handsome but affordable rental townhouse in the suburb of Boulder, Colorado, by a landlord who cited the pair’s “unique relationship.”
In an email rejecting their rental application, the landlord, Deepika Avanti, also said that “they were not welcome to rent the townhouse” because a family who lived next door was worried that the Smiths’ young kids would create too much noise in their quiet community.
Currently, the federal Fair Housing Act prohibits a landlord from discriminating against a potential tenant based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin. A handful of cities have specifically extended such protection to LGBT individuals and couples, but federal law has not.
The April 5 ruling by U.S. Federal Court Judge Raymond P. Moore could add some major fuel to efforts by several groups to change that.
The key question in the case was whether the provision of the Fair Housing Act that prohibits discrimination against a person’s “sex” is meant to include sexual orientation or gender identity. Judge Moore ruled that it does.
In his decision, Moore agreed with the Smiths’ contention that “discrimination against women (like them) for failure to conform to stereotype norms concerning to or with whom a woman should be attracted, should marry and/or should have children is discrimination on the basis of sex” - and thereby a violation of the Fair Housing Act.
Some Congressional representatives are already using the court ruling to bolster their efforts to approve proLGBT housing laws and related measures. But they still are facing an uphill battle with fellow lawmakers who oppose such an expansion of federal law, previous lower-court decisions that favored landlords, and a president who hasn’t taken a firm stance on either side of the issue.