HUD to Officially Ban Anti-LGBT Discrimination in Federal Housing Programs

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Saturday January 28, 2012

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced on Saturday that his agency will codify its proposed rule that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in federal housing programs next week.

"LGBT discrimination is real and we must do something about it," he said at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's annual Creating Change conference in Baltimore.

He received a standing ovation as he took the stage and when he announced the pending codification. "LGBT individuals and couples have the right to live where they choose," said Donovan. "This is an idea whose time has come."

Donovan first announced the proposal last June in regards to HUD-funded programs and Federal Housing Authority-backed mortgages. HUD, which hosted the first-ever federal summit on housing for LGBT Americans in December, announced in June 2010 that prospective grant recipients must comply with local and state anti-discrimination laws that include both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

Donovan specifically referred to Michelle DeShane, a lesbian woman who wanted to add her partner Mitch, a transgender man, to her housing voucher in his speech. The DeShanes' local housing authority denied the request because the couple did not fit into its definition of family. The agency referred the DeShanes to another agency in a neighboring jurisdiction.

"That is just wrong," said Donovan. "No one should be subject to that kind of treatment or denied housing assistance because of their gender identity."

Activists quickly welcomed Donovan's announcement.

"This policy announced today by Secretary Donovan will literally save lives," said Task Force executive director Rea Carey.

Michael Adams, executive director of SAGE, pointed to the new HUD regulation as proof of the White House's ongoing commitment to end anti-LGBT discrimination.

"Finding affordable and welcoming housing is one of the biggest challenges that LGBT elders face," said Michael Adams, executive director of SAGE. "Steps by the Obama administration to end discrimination against our communities in federal housing can be game-changing for SAGE constituents, so we applaud this news from HUD."

Maya Rupert, federal policy director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, categorized the rule as historic.

"LGBT people and their families will now enjoy critical protections from housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity," she said. "This will improve the lives of countless families and individuals across the country who no longer have to fear being denied housing because of who they are. We applaud HUD for its leadership and commitment to fairness and justice."

The rule will take effect 30 days after HUD officially codifies it.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.