The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will extend the Fair Housing Act to protect persons from discrimination based on sexual identity and sexual orientation.
The announcement was made on Thursday, after a memorandum was issued by HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Opportunity (FHEO). The department is now tasked with investigating complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation and sexual identity, and ensuring that state and local jurisdictions, as well as organizations that are recipients of HUD assistance comply with the anti-discriminatory policies. Within the next 30 days, the department is also to review allegations of discrimination received since January 20, 2020.
The move follows Biden’s executive order directing executive branch agencies to review steps needed to prevent such sex-based discrimination.
“Housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and identity demands urgent enforcement of action,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of FHEO, Jeanine M. Worden, in a press release from the agency. “That is why HUD, under the Biden administration, will fully enforce the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity of sexual orientation. Every person should be able to secure a roof over their head free from discrimination, and the action we are taking today will move us closer to that goal.”
When asked by the Washington Blade why the department will review discrimination cases filed only since January 20, 2020, a spokesperson for the department cited statutory time limits under the Fair Housing Act.
The announcement signals the department’s move away from the policies of the Trump administration, where directives often gave executive branch agencies license to discriminate based on sexual identity and orientation.
In the press release, HUD did acknowledge that in the past, the department has been “constrained in its efforts to address housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by legal uncertainty about whether most such discrimination was within HUD’s reach.” However, Biden’s executive orders, as well as the protections granted to LGBTQ+ persons under Bostock v Clayton County, have established that sexual orientation and identity should be included under the provisions of the Fair Housing Act.