LGBTs move closer to fed­eral fair-housing pro­tec­tion

The Palm Beach Post - Residences - - News -

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.

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