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Task Force: Amend Fair Housing Act to ban housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

News release from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

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National lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights leader urges Congress to protect LGBT people from pervasive discrimination

WASHINGTON, March 11 — National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund Executive Director Rea Carey today called on federal lawmakers to amend the Fair Housing Act to ban discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Carey made the remarks in her testimony at the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties hearing, “Protecting the American Dream: A Look at the Fair Housing Act.” The Task Force was the only LGBT rights group presenting oral testimony at today’s historic hearing.

The Fair Housing Act currently prohibits discrimination by direct providers of housing, such as landlords and real estate companies, municipalities, banks or other lending institutions, and homeowners insurance companies whose discriminatory practices make housing unavailable to people because of race or color, religion, sex, national origin, family status or disability. Carey urged lawmakers to expand protections to include LGBT individuals and families.

“For us, the pursuit of the American dream, including home ownership, is a risky proposition. When our sexual orientation or gender identity is known, either because we offer it willingly or a landlord, realtor or lender is made aware by other means, there is potential for outright hostility, property damage and even physical violence,” Carey testified. “Studies show that in renting apartments, when callers described themselves as gay or lesbian, apartments are more likely to be described as unavailable.”

Carey also cited preliminary data from a forthcoming and groundbreaking national survey of transgender and gender identity discrimination in the U.S. by the Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality. More than 6,000 transgender people were surveyed, with respondents from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Disturbingly, 11 percent of transgender people reported having been evicted and 19 percent reported becoming homeless due to bias,” Carey told lawmakers. “While the general population has a home ownership rate of 68 percent, our survey showed only a 32 percent rate among transgender people.”

She testified that LGBT seniors also fall within a higher risk category in terms of housing challenges. The Task Force recently released Outing Age 2010, a comprehensive review of elder policy in the U.S. That study found that employment discrimination over the lifespan, combined with a lack of recognition of LGBT relationships and families in federal safety net programs such as Social Security leave LGBT people especially fragile economically and socially as they age. This translates into higher rates of housing insecurity among LGBT elders — either as they try to retain family homes in the face of long-term care or when they attempt to secure LGBT-friendly elder housing — which is virtually nonexistent.

While 20 states and D.C. prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and 13 states and D.C. include gender identity, federal protections are still needed given that implementation and uniformity of enforcement varies across jurisdictions.

“LGBT individuals suffer pervasive discrimination in so many areas of their lives,” said Carey. “No one should be evicted, be kept from living in certain areas, or pay more rent simply because of who they are. Nor should anyone have to lie about who they are in order to have safe housing. For all these reasons, the Fair Housing Act should be amended to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Download a copy of the submitted testimony.

To learn more about the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, visit www.theTaskForce.org and follow us on Twitter: @TheTaskForce.

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