BALTIMORE, Jan. 28 While addressing nearly 3,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ( LGBT ) rights advocates at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's 24th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change Jan. 28, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced a new HUD policy to fight discrimination against LGBT people in federally supported housing programs.
The new rules, to be published next week, will help LGBT people and their families across the country stay in their homes, get the loans they need to buy homes, and access life-saving federal assistance programs to help get low-income people and families back on their feet.
Donovan is the first sitting Cabinet secretary in history to speak at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change, the country's largest annual gathering of LGBT rights advocates. They have been meeting this week in Baltimore to strategize and mobilize in this critical election year.
"I'm here this afternoon because our president and his administration believe the LGBT community deserves a place at the table and also a place to call home. Each of us here knows that rights most folks take for granted are routinely violated against LGBT people," Donovan said. "That's why I'm proud to stand before you this afternoon and say HUD has been a leader in the fight your fight and my fight for equality. Over the last three years, we have worked to ensure that our housing programs are open. Not to some. Not to most. But open to all."
Donovan spotlighted steps HUD has already taken to help protect LGBT people from housing-related discrimination. This work includes protecting LGBT people from discrimination under the Fair Housing Act and collecting data to better understand how same-sex couples suffer housing discrimination.
Donovan then unveiled the latest step.
"Today, I am proud to announce a new Equal Access to Housing Rule that says clearly and unequivocally that LGBT individuals and couples have the right to live where they choose. This is an idea whose time has come," he said.
Donovan outlined the scope of the new rule.
"First and foremost, this rule includes a new equal access provision that prohibits owners and operators of HUD-funded housing, or housing whose financing we insure, from inquiring about an applicant's sexual orientation or gender identity or denying housing on that basis. If you are denying HUD housing to people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity actual or perceived you're discriminating, you're breaking the law and you will be held accountable. That's what equal access means, and that's what this rule is going to do."
He continued, "Secondly, this rule makes clear that LGBT families … are eligible for HUD's public housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs that collectively serve 5.5 million people. Third, the rule also makes clear that sexual orientation and gender identity should not and cannot be part of any lending decision when it comes to getting a mortgage insured by the FHA part of HUD."
This announcement marks another victory for the New Beginning Initiative, a coalition of more than two dozen organizations convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, working to change how the federal government treats LGBT people and their families. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force applauds the work of its coalition partners to secure this win for LGBT people and their families.
"Thanks to your leadership in convening the New Beginning Initiative, together we have made extraordinary progress, creating changes throughout the administration that have improved the day-to-day lives of LGBT people across the country," Donovan said.
Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, praised today's announcement and spoke of its vital importance to the lives of LGBT people.
"This policy announced today by Secretary Donovan will literally save lives. LGBT people and their families all across the country depend on HUD programs to have a roof over their head. Unfortunately, there are landlords out there who would choose to discriminate, putting families in peril," Carey said. "These housing protections will reduce homelessness and increase economic security for LGBT people, which helps break the cycle of poverty that many families experience due to discrimination."
She added, "This announcement could not have been made to a more appropriate crowd the thousands of LGBT activists working on the ground in all of the states across the country who see the impacts of housing discrimination every day. We thank President Obama and Secretary Donovan for their recognition of the importance of housing security and their continued commitment to ending discrimination against LGBT people."
Read Secretary Shaun Donovan's full remarks at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change here.
As part of its Blueprint for Positive Change, HRC submitted more than 70 recommendations for executive action which would improve the lives of LGBT Americans to the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team. Since the administration began, HRC staff have met and communicated with numerous federal agencies on how to implement these policies. Addressing discrimination in federal housing programs was part of HRC's recommendations for HUD.
HRC Statement on New HUD Non-Discrimination Regulations
"The new regulations from HUD will help protect LGBT people and our families in one of the most fundamental aspects of life - finding and keeping a home," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "This common sense action will help some of the most vulnerable people in our community in trying to make homes for themselves and their families."
The new rule makes three important changes to federal regulations. First, it includes language that ensures same-sex couples and their children are recognized as families covered by HUD programs, including affordable housing assistance. Second it prohibits owners and operators of HUD-assisted housing, or housing whose financing is insured by HUD, from inquiring about the sexual orientation or gender identity of an applicant or basing a decision on their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Third it prohibits consideration of factors other than creditworthiness, including sexual orientation and gender identity, in the awarding of mortgage loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration.
NCLR Applauds New HUD Rule Ensuring Equal Access to Housing for LGBT Community
Statement by NCLR Federal Policy Director Maya Rupert, Esq.
The new rule, which will be published next week and go into effect 30 days after that, makes several critical changes to current housing and housing-related programs including: prohibiting owners and operators of HUD-assisted or HUD-insured housing from discriminating against an applicant or occupant of a residence based on sexual orientation or gender identity; prohibiting all lenders offering Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgages from considering sexual orientation or gender identity in determining a borrower's eligibility; and clarifying the definition of "family" to ensure that otherwise eligible participants in any HUD programs will not be excluded based on marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights ( NCLR ) has been a lead partner with HUD as it works to ensure access to fair and affordable housing for the LGBT community. NCLR drafted comments on behalf of more than 30 LGBT, civil rights, and fair housing organizations that offered feedback on this new policy when it was initially proposed. In December 2011, NCLR co-hosted the first-ever federal summit along with HUD and the Department of Health and Human Services ( HHS ) on LGBT elder housing.
Statement by NCLR Federal Policy Director Maya Rupert, Esq.:
"This rule is truly historic for the LGBT community and the impact it will have on all of our lives cannot be overstated. Thanks to the remarkable efforts of the Obama administration, and especially HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and Assistant Secretary John Trasviña and their staffs, LGBT people and their families will now enjoy critical protections from housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 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."
NCTE Praises New Federal Regulations Ensuring Fair Access to Housing
Baltimore, MD - Today, the Obama Administration announced historic new federal rules that will strengthen housing discrimination protections for transgender and other LGBT people. The new regulations were announced by Housing and Urban Development ( HUD ) Secretary Shaun Donovan at the 24th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change, and will be officially published this coming week.
Secretary Shaun Donovan said, "Today, I am proud to announce a new Equal Access to Housing Rule that says clearly and unequivocally that LGBT individuals and couples have the right to live where they choose."
The new rule makes several urgently needed changes to current federal housing and housing-related programs including: prohibiting owners and operators of federally-funded or federally-insured housing, as well as lenders offering federally-insured mortgages from discriminating based on gender identity or sexual orientation; and clarifying the definition of "family" to ensure that LGBT families are not excluded from HUD programs.
Secretary Donovan said, "If you are denying HUD housing to people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, actual or perceived, you're discriminating, you're breaking the law, and you will be held accountable. That's what equal access means, and that's what this rule is going to do."
The Obama Administration has previously clarified that people who face any housing discrimination based on gender identity or gender stereotypes can file complaints under the federal Fair Housing Act.
According to Harper Jean Tobin, NCTE Policy Counsel, "this is a major and urgently needed advancement in basic protections for transgender people. NCTE is calling on other federal departments to follow HUD's common-sense approach and use existing legal authority to prohibit discrimination against LGBT people in the programs they fund and administer. We applaud Secretary Donovan and the Obama Administration for this much needed relief for transgender people."
Mara Keisling added, "We are very pleased that, just as he said at NCTE's Awards Ceremony in November, HUD has clearly listened to our concerns with earlier drafts of the regulations and made them even stronger."
In announcing the draft rules early last year, HUD cited The National Transgender Discrimination Survey conducted by NCTE and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, showing that 19% of transgender and gender non-conforming people had been refused a home or apartment and 11% had been evicted because of their gender identity or expression. The study also showed that 19% of transgender people have been homeless at some point in their lives, and 29% of those had been turned away from homeless shelters and a majority were harassed when they could get in to a shelter.
The new rule will be officially published this coming week and will take effect 30 days later. NCTE will release an analysis of the new rule and what it means for transgender people once the final rules are published.
What follows are the remarks by HUD Secretary Donovan.
Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Creating Change Conference
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Thank you, Rea, for that very kind introduction.
You remind each of us here today what a privilege it is to be partners in the fight for equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
And it's an honor to be here as the first sitting Cabinet Secretary in history to address the Task Force and to speak at Creating Change.
Let me also thank the Board and Staff of the Task Force for inviting me and many of my colleagues from across the Obama Administration to participate in this conference.
Thanks to your leadership in convening the New Beginning Initiative, together we have made extraordinary progress, creating changes throughout the Administration that have improved the day to day lives of LGBT people across the country.
A Seat at the Table
The progress we have made together reminds me that President Obama views the fight for LGBT equality not as an issue but as a priority.
You can see this commitment in the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
In his first State of the Union, the President called for its repeal. And earlier this week, at the President's third, an active duty Air Force colonel who is openly lesbian sat as a guest in the First Lady's box without fear of being discharged for who she is or who she loves.
You can also see that commitment in a record number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender appointments to positions throughout the Administration.
You can see it in a Presidential Memorandum on Hospital Visitation, which addressed the rights of patients in hospitals that receive Medicare or Medicaid fundsjust about every hospitalto designate visitors regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to take the necessary steps to improve the health and well-being of LGBT people and their families.
You can see it in the efforts we've undertaken on behalf of the transgender community, from the State Department's efforts to ensure greater dignity and privacy for transgender passport applicants to the Office of Personnel Management's announcement that gender identity is a prohibited basis of discrimination in federal employment to the VA's directive to ensure respectful and non-discriminatory care for transgender veterans who deserve our deepest gratitude and our commitment to their wellbeing.
And that commitment to the LGBT community doesn't stop at our borders. You can also see it in a Presidential Memorandum promoting the protection of the human rights of LGBT individuals abroad and in Secretary of State Clinton's bold and forceful declaration that gay rights are human rights, and that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
Perhaps clearest of all, you can see the President's commitment in the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention law.
I'm proud to work for the President who signed the first federal civil rights legislation that includes the words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" into law.
A Place to Call Home HUD Accomplishments
I'm here this afternoon, because our President and his Administration believe the LGBT community deserves a place at the table and also a place to call home.
Each of us here knows that rights most folks take for granted are routinely violated against LGBT people.
That's why I'm proud to stand before you this afternoon and say HUD has been a leader in the fightyour fight and my fightfor equality.
Over the last three years, we have worked to ensure that our housing programs are open.
Not to some.
Not to most.
But open to all.
Now, some outside this room might ask: why is that even necessary?
Well, let me tell you about Mitch and Michelle DeShane.
Two years ago Michelle wanted to add her partner Mitch, a transgender man, to the housing voucher she receives to find affordable housing.
The local housing authority denied her request. They told her that the couple did not meet its definition of "family."
Then, the DeShanes were referred to a neighboring housing authority because, as they were apparently told, and I quote, that housing authority, "accepts everyone even Martians."
That's just wrong. No one should be subject to that kind of treatment or denied access to housing assistance because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
And as the Injustice at Every Turn report you put out last year with the National Center for Transgender Equality, these challenges are all too common.
That report found not only that a staggering 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT but that half of them report experiencing homelessness as a result of their gender identity or expression. Even more troubling, the majority report harassment, difficulty, or even sexual assault when trying to access homeless shelters.
Allowing this mistreatment to happen is not only wrong it's also not who we are as Americans.
That's why, for the first time at our annual National Fair Housing Policy Conference, HUD hosted a session on housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
It's why, in December, HUD and HHS held the first-ever LGBT elder housing summit, bringing together advocates and practitioners from across the country to highlight existing barriers and explore future opportunities to support housing and long-term care designed for seniors in the LGBT community.
Perhaps most important of all, it's why we are conducting the first-ever national study of LGBT housing discrimination a historic and important study we designed based on feedback from town halls conducted in communities across the country.
Led by HUD Assistant Secretary Raphael Bostic, this study is partly about getting a clearer picture of the problem.
But it's also about making the case the case that LGBT discrimination is real and that we need to do something about it.
That's why we've been reviewing our existing authority to address housing discrimination related to the LGBT community.
For instance, under the Fair Housing Act prohibition of sex discrimination, we have authority to pursue cases alleging housing discrimination because a person's identity or expression didn't conform with gender stereotypes.
And we've also provided HUD staff with guidance instructing them to carefully assess whether any LGBT-based housing discrimination complaints could be pursued through the Fair Housing Act or state or local discrimination laws and launched a webpage on LGBT housing discrimination.
We know that these efforts are already having an impact.
With these resources we are helping uncover discrimination that had gone unreported for far too long and raising awareness that reporting such discrimination can make a difference. As a result, not only have reports of LGBT housing discrimination increased so have the number of complaints we've been able to move forward on.
We've also required grant applicants to comply with state and local anti-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation or gender discrimination covering 20 states that more than four-in-ten Americans call home.
Over $3 billion in federal funding is available in these grants and we want to make sure as many dollars as possible are protecting the rights of every American.
Lastly, just as we're making sure we understand the needs of LGBT Americans, we're also making sure that LGBT Americans understand their rights as well.
With HUD's Live Free fair housing education and outreach campaign, we've been targeting print and social media like Facebook, with videos, podcasts, and ads that address discrimination and let people know how to report it.
These are the first steps we've taken to ensure that all Americansregardless of age, income, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identityhave access to choice and opportunity.
And I tell you today:
They aren't the last.
Today, I am proud to announce a new Equal Access to Housing Rule that says clearly and unequivocally that LGBT individuals and couples have the right to live where they choose.
This is an idea whose time has come.
And before I go into the rule itself, I want to acknowledge Assistant Secretary John Trasvina and the rest of the HUD team for their extraordinary work to get it across the finish line, as well as the Task Force and other LGBT organizations for the feedback you provided when we solicited comment on the proposed rule.
When we first proposed this rule, we included a provision that prohibited owners and operators of HUD housing from inquiring whether someone is LGBT.
But as you made very clear, people don't have to inquire to discriminate against them that often, people face discrimination based on their appearance or mannerisms.
And so, first and foremost, this rule includes a new equal access provision that prohibits owners and operators of HUD-funded housing, or housing whose financing we insure, from inquiring about an applicant's sexual orientation or gender identity or denying housing on that basis.
If you are denying HUD housing to people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identityactual or perceivedyou're discriminating, you're breaking the law and you will be held accountable.
That's what equal access means and that's what this rule is going to do.
Secondly, this rule makes clear that LGBT families, like the DeShanes, are eligible for HUD's public housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs that collectively serve 5.5 million people.
Third, the rule also makes clear that sexual orientation and gender identity should not and cannot be part of any lending decision when it comes to getting a mortgage insured by the FHA part of HUD.
I'm proud to announce that this rule will be published as final in the Federal Register next week and go into effect 30 days later.
Now, I'm as excited about this rule as everyone here. But let's be clear:
Publishing this rule next week won't be the end of the process but in many ways, just the beginning.
Enacting a rule is not enough. Training and education are essential to ensuring rules are followed in communities across the country.
And so, HUD and its fair housing partners will work to provide guidance and training on the substance of this rule and the impact it will have for both how we administer HUD programs and also how we enforce our nation's fair housing laws more broadly.
And we look forward to working with you on that education effort.
Reclaiming Our Values
For me, for my colleagues here today, and for President Obama, everything I have described is fundamentally about one goal which I'm sure will be familiar to all of you:
Change like the President acknowledging young black gay men's struggles, and telling these men that their lives matter.
Change like a commitment to double down on our efforts to ensure the promise that we can live in an AIDS free generation.
Or when the President acts to protect the visitation rights of gay and lesbian patients.
Because no one should be separated from the person they love not in sickness and not in health.
Change is a returning sailor sharing a traditional first kiss with her girlfriend.
An Air Force officer having her partner at her side when she gets promoted.
And a Marine introducing his boyfriend to his battle buddies at the Marine Corps Ball.
Change is the President and the First Lady and members of the Administration telling young people across the country that bullying is wrong, their lives matter, and it does get better.
Change is a world in which a young man like Matthew Shepard can grow up, fall in love, and live happily ever after, because the President signed into law the first piece of federal legislation in history containing the words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" and because his government has acted to bring us closer to a day when hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are history.
And change is President Obama and his Administration standing for equal rights under the law for committed gay and lesbian couples by informing courts that Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.
Now, I can be as frustrated as anyone by the pace of change. Change is slow. Change is hard.
But the change I've been talking about?
This change is real.
It didn't just "happen."
It took vigilance and commitment from you and from the President and his Administration.
As many of you may know, President Obama had inscribed on the carpet in the Oval Office a quote of Martin Luther King's which reads "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."
At moments when change is hard and his head is bowed, I often imagine President Obama, looking down and seeing these words and remembering to keep his eyes on the prize.
I mention that quote not just because I believe that progress I've described over these last three years proves its truth.
But also because we didn't come this far because we hoped that arc would bend.
We got this far because of people throughout our proud historypeople like Val Burke, Mitch and Michelle DeShane and the countless others whose names we'll never knowhad the strength and the courage to lean on that arc and inspire others to as well.
Because the kind of change we need can't be led by Washington. It never is.
It's got to be led by people as President Obama has said, by "ordinary citizens...propelled not just by politics but by love and friendship and a sense of mutual regard."
It's got to be led by you.
By all of us. There are no sidelines in these fights.
Like our President, I believe America succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules.
Those are our values as Americans.
They represent who we are and who we aspire to be.
So, let's make it happen. Let's keep creating change this year, next and every year going forward.
Thank you for this opportunity for all you do and all I know you'll continue to do in the weeks a