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Shaheen, Hassan & Bipartisan Group Introduce Bill to Protect LGBTQ Americans from Housing Discrimination

(Washington, DC) – Yesterday, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced the Fair and Equal Housing Act of 2019 with a bipartisan group of Senators led by Tim Kaine (D-VA), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME). The bill would add gender identity and sexual orientation to the classes protected from discrimination under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) to ensure equal housing opportunities for all Americans. The FHA prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or disability but not sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, 21 states, the District of Columbia, and over 200 localities protect sexual orientation and gender identity in their housing discrimination statutes.

“Our laws must reflect our nation’s values and until we break down the barriers obstructing LGBTQ Americans from enjoying full equality, there is still significant work to do,” said Shaheen. “This bipartisan bill would take an important step toward meeting that goal by ensuring every American has equal access to housing, regardless of who they love or how they identify. Ending discrimination and ensuring full equality under the law are principles that every member of Congress should share and I hope both Republicans and Democrats can work together to move this bill forward.”

“It is completely unacceptable that under current law someone can be denied access to housing simply because of who they love or which gender they identify with,” Senator Hassan said. “I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support the bipartisan Fair and Equal Housing Act in order to change our laws and protect LGBTQ Americans from unjust discrimination in housing.” 

National data continues to show that same-sex couples “face higher barriers to access rental housing” and that there are higher levels of discrimination against same-sex couples of color, even in localities that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This data also demonstrates that same-sex applicants are much more likely to be denied a mortgage and pay higher fees than heterosexual couples.

A 2018 study of housing discrimination found that rental unit inquiries by LGBTQ couples were more likely to be ignored than couples not perceived to be LGBTQ. The study also suggests that stronger federal and state antidiscrimination laws are needed.

Senators Shaheen and Hassan introduced the Equality Act in March with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, which would ban discrimination against LGBTQ Americans by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to other protected classes, such as race or religion, into existing federal laws. That comprehensive legislation also includes Shaheen’s Jury ACCESS Act, which is bipartisan legislation that would prohibit LGBTQ discrimination in the jury selection process.

The Fair and Equal Housing Act of 2019 is supported by the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals, National Association of Realtors, National Housing Law Project, National Low Income Housing Coalition, Equality Virginia, and Human Rights Campaign. The bill is also cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Tina Smith (D-MN).

Text of the legislation can be read in full here.