No Place Like Home: The Continuing Fight for Fair Housing in the LGBTQ Community

By Shane Stahl • February 5, 2019 • 11:23 am

What does the phrase “American Dream” bring to mind? Housing is likely one part of that. But what if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or fall anywhere else along the spectrum besides heterosexual? Owning a home may be tougher depending on where you live. Just 20 states have explicit nondiscrimination laws to protect LGBTQ people from housing discrimination. Fortunately, hundreds of municipalities across the country have taken their own steps to protect LGBTQ people with local ordinances. And at the federal level, the Equality Act bill could make full equality possible for all LGBTQ Americans. 

 Until nationwide protections become a reality, LGBTQ people will continue to have very real concerns regarding where they are able to live. A new study from LGBTQ research firm Community Marketing and Insights, commissioned by Freddie Mac, was completed in April of 2018, and the results are troubling.  

 Among the notable findings: 

  • 49% of LGBTQ households are likely to own a home, well below the national average of 64.3% 
  • 46% of LGBTQ homeowners fear discrimination in the home-buying process. 
  • The top three priorities when LGBTQ people consider buying a home are price, safety, and LGBTQ friendliness.  

 The study clearly shows that safety and discrimination are the most prevalant concerns for LGBTQ people when deciding where to live. Unfortunately, this is not a hidden secret. For example, Theo Pavlich is a transgender man in Ohio who was evicted from his apartment after his landlord learned he was transgender; and Kathleen O’Donnell, whose application for rental was denied after her potential landlord learned she was in a same-sex relationship, and who told her, “I don’t rent to your kind.”  

 The good news is that recent trends indicate that relief may be in sight. The case of Smith v. Avanti, filed in U.S. District Court, contended that a Colorado landlord had violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent to a same-sex female couple. In April of 2017, Judge Raymond P. Moore decided in favor of the plaintiffs, becoming the first federal judge to rule that the Fair Housing Act’s language prohibiting sex discrimination also prohibits discrimination based on the category of sexual orientation. 

Another case in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals saw judges rule in favor of an openly lesbian woman who faced discrimination in her retirement community. Wetzel v. Glen St. Andrew Living Community was filed by Marsha Wetzel with the help of Lambda Legal after Marsha experienced verbal and physical harassment after being open about her relationship with her late partner. The panel ruled on August 26, 2018 that the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex AND sexual orientation.  

 Everyone deserves the ability to be able to earn a living, provide for themselves and their families, and to create a loving, supportive, place to call home; and while we’ve seen moves in the right direction, the fight for comprehensive nondiscrimination protections is far from over. LGBTQ people are still vulnerable to discrimination in the majority of the country, and until this is no longer the case, Freedom for All Americans will continue to advocate on behalf of the millions of LGBTQ people across the country to ensure fair and equal treatment across the board. If you believe as we do, and want to add your name to our pledge and show your support for nationwide nondiscrimination protections, click here.

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