One of the worst feelings is being discriminated against. Sometimes it’s obvious. You know right away that someone isn’t treating you fairly simply because you identify as LGBTQ. Other times, it’s much more subtle. This can almost be worse than obvious discrimination because you’re left wondering if it’s actually happening or if you’re just imaging it. When it comes to housing, there are laws in place to protect you against discrimination. It’s important that you know these laws and your rights, so you understand how to battle discrimination if it affects you.
The Fair Housing Act
The Federal Fair Housing Act is the single legal document you need to understand when it comes to housing discrimination. This Act states that no one can be discriminated against based on color, race, sex, religion, national origin, familial status, or disability. While that doesn’t specifically say anything about gender identity or sexual orientation, the Justice Department has gone on record as stating that “sex” does include discrimination against transgender buyers and renters.
In addition to the Justice Department expanding this definition, the Housing and Urban Development department has also gone on record stating that the Act protects you from being discriminated against for “gender nonconformity.” This means that if you are biologically male, but choose to dress feminine, you cannot be discriminated against for not fitting the male stereotype.
Because the Act does mention familial status, many see it as protecting married LGBTQ couples or those who have chosen not to get married but want to live together. As with many laws, the way the Federal Fair Housing Act protects LGBTQ individuals and couples is still being tested and determined.
Unfortunately, there aren’t sweeping state laws that protect LGBTQ homebuyers. Various states offer different protections. Some offer next to none, while others have passed legislation fully protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination. Some states protect people based on sexual orientation, but not on gender identification. Then there are city ordinances that protect only those who live within certain metro areas. If you believe you’re dealing with discrimination in housing, it’s important to learn how your state and city offer protections. Speaking to an experienced legal expert is recommended.
If you want to avoid discrimination in your search for the perfect home, one way of doing so is to use a gay or lesbian real estate agent. These agents understand what it’s like to be the target of discrimination and will go out of their way to make certain you’re treated fairly.