Momentum: For the First Time, Federal Judge Finds Anti-LGBT Discrimination in Violation of Fair Housing Act

By Adam Polaski • April 5, 2017 • 2:40 pm

In less than twenty-four hours, two federal courts in two different states issued landmark, first-of-their-kind rulings finding that federal law prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.

Following last night’s 8-3 order from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals finding that discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which prohibits discrimination based on sex), a federal judge in Colorado today issued a ruling in Smith v. Avanti, a lawsuit brought by Lambda Legal last year.

The case concerns a landlord in Boulder County, Colorado who refused to rent a housing unit to a same-sex couple, Tonya and Rachel Smith. Rachel is also transgender, and the couple is raising two children together. The landlord repeatedly expressed concerns about the couple’s “uniqueness” when denying their ability to rent the unit.

U.S District Judge Raymond P. Moore ruled that the property owner’s discrimination violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, adopted by the Colorado Legislature in 2008, demonstrating the need for powerful state non-discrimination laws.

Furthermore – for the first time in federal court, Judge Moore also found that the property owner’s anti-LGBT discrimination violated the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, including stereotypes about sex.

“We are delighted with this ruling,” the plaintiff, Lambda Legal client Tonya Smith, said. “We were so shocked and upset by [the property owner] Deepika’s emails, that simply because of who we are she wouldn’t rent to us. We felt it was unfair and illegal, and now a court has agreed. No one should ever have to go through what we went through, and hopefully this ruling will protect other couples like us who are trying to provide safe homes for their families.”

This is an important step forward for the movement for LGBT non-discrimination, a signal that courts are more than ever understanding that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not only wrong but also in violation of federal laws. Upward momentum like this continues to contribute to the growing consensus nationwide that anti-LGBT discrimination in every facet of life must be prohibited by federal law – and we urge lawmakers in Congress and in states across the country to catch up to the law and affirm comprehensive LGBT-inclusive policies protecting LGBT people from discrimination in all areas of their life, once and for all.

Read the full ruling from Equality Case Files here. 


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