By the end of the year, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals won't be shut out of federal housing assistance any longer. In a move praised by gay rights groups yesterday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) unveiled a proposed rule change that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in many of the agency's key programs, including government-backed mortgages and public housing. While HUD is still conducting a national study on the topic, a 2007 analysis of 120 fair housing tests in Michigan found that 25 percent of gays faced disparate treatment.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force passed along this description of the changes:
The new rules would provide definitions for sexual orientation and gender identity for HUD programs and services; prohibit the owners or landlords of housing that is either HUD-assisted or HUD-insured from asking an applicant about sexual orientation or gender identity; prevent lenders of a mortgage insured by HUD from discriminating based on the real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of applicants; and make clear that participation in HUD-supported housing programs like the Section 8 voucher program is available to LGBT families who meet other qualification requirements.
Illinois can take a small bit of credit for the regulatory change. In March 2009, just two months after taking office, Gov. Pat Quinn urged the head of Illinois' Department of Human Rights to petition President Barack Obama to prohibit gender or sexual discrimination in federally-assisted housing. Illinois was the first state in the nation to do so. "Acts of housing discrimination and barriers to equal housing opportunity are repugnant to a common sense of decency and fairness," the governor said at the time. That letter was delivered four years after Illinois amended its own Human Rights Act to ensure those same protections were in place for employment and housing. After passing a civil unions bill this past December, the Land of Lincoln can certainly consider itself a national leader on LGBT civil rights.