The Washington Post is reporting that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is going to undertake a national study of LGBT housing discrimination. The federal Fair Housing Act does not currently prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination; however, this study is viewed as a first step toward extending such protection.
As a past victim of housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, I am encouraged to see the federal government taking an interest in this important issue. I am even more impressed by the fact that the government is reaching out to the LGBT communities in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco (with plans to obtain input from LGBT persons in other areas of the country through e-mail or the web) for input on how to design the study. In past studies testing for race discrimination, testers of different races were sent out to determine whether landlords and real estate agents treated them differently based on their race. The concern with this current study is in making sure that the sexual orientation or gender identity of the applicant is clear and that any difference in treatment can really be attributed to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. That they have reached out to the LGBT community to consider how to do this demonstrates sensitivity to the LGBT community and evinces an intent to design a serious, meaningful study. It’ll be interesting to see the results that they obtain.