June is Pride Month, and June 28th is Pride Day in honor of the first Pride march in 1970 in New York City. Fifty-three years later, we still see things like this in the housing context:
A same-sex couple asks a realtor to see rental units throughout the city but is only shown rental units in a part of the city known for having many LGBTQ residents.*
The leasing manager at a 55+ community rejected a male tenant's request to add his same-sex partner to his lease stating, in writing, that the community only accepts married couples in unions between "one man and one woman."
A housing provider refuses to rent a house to a same-sex couple because of their "family composition," which is comprised of two individuals of the same sex rather than two individuals of the opposite sex.
And recently, The Human Rights Campaign, the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Florida Immigrant Coalition, and Equality Florida have all issued travel or relocation warnings for Florida for the LGBTQ+ community.
Historically, LGBTQ+ individuals have faced housing discrimination, often enduring prejudice, bias, and even outright rejection when seeking housing opportunities.
But all of us have rights under the Fair Housing Act.
This month, in honor of Pride Month, let's look closer at protected classes like sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation) and familial status, which includes people in the LGBTQ+ community.
National Fair Housing Protections for the LGBTQ+ Community
Nationally, under the Fair Housing Act and HUD's Equal Access Rule, landlords or any housing provider (including mortgage lenders) cannot discriminate against any LGBTQ+ person based on the following:
Sexual orientation or gender identity (or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity)
Actual or perceived HIV/AIDS status
Marital status – whether married or not or who a person is married to
In addition, under the Equal Access Rule, "HUD-funded homeless providers must place clients in a shelter or facility that corresponds to the gender with which the person identifies, taking health and safety concerns into consideration." Providers cannot discriminate or segregate clients based on gender identity.
Cook County Fair Housing Protections for LGBTQ+ Individuals
Looking at rights on a more local level, we are thrilled that Cook County has implemented additional protections for the LGBTQ+ community.
Some of the steps Cook County has taken to combat such discrimination and promote equality include:
The Cook County Human Rights Ordinance: The Cook County Human Rights Ordinance is vital legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, and public accommodations. Passed in 2008, this ordinance offers comprehensive protections to the LGBTQ+ community and reinforces Cook County's commitment to fostering an inclusive environment
Resources and Support Services: Cook County has also invested in resources and support services tailored to the specific needs of the LGBTQ+ community. Organizations like the Center on Halsted, Kenneth Young Center, Howard Brown Health, & Brave Space Alliance provide LGBTQ+ affirming services, and some even offer housing counseling, emergency shelter, and transitional housing programs. These initiatives are essential in creating a safety net for individuals facing housing challenges.
The Impact of Fair Housing Protections
By outlawing discrimination and fostering an inclusive housing environment, housing protections provide the community stability, security, and a sense of belonging. Some key benefits include:
Reduced Homelessness: Fair housing protections significantly contribute to lowering LGBTQ+ homelessness rates in Cook County. By addressing discrimination and providing support services, individuals are more likely to maintain stable housing situations and avoid the risk of homelessness.
Community Integration: The availability of fair housing helps LGBTQ+ individuals integrate into communities of their choice, fostering a sense of belonging and reducing isolation. This integration is essential for personal growth, mental well-being, and building support networks.
How Can We Keep Housing Fair for the LGBTQ+ Community
While the U.S. and Cook County have made progress in ensuring fair housing protections for the LGBTQ+ community, we still have work to do. Some of our efforts include:
Education and Awareness: By educating those looking for housing about their rights and those providing housing about the rules and regulations they must follow, we are working to create a community that knows about fair housing laws and the importance of LGBTQ+ inclusivity.
Strengthening Enforcement: Enforcing fair housing laws comes in many forms. Enforcement is crucial for stopping discrimination and holding those who violate housing protections accountable. If you think you have experienced or witnessed a fair housing violation, please leave a tip (you can do this anonymously) using our new portal.
Support Organizations like Open Communities: By financially supporting organizations like Open Communities, we can continue to offer housing assistance, counseling, and advocacy to the LGBTQ+ community.
In the fight for equality and social justice, ensuring fair housing for all is an essential step toward creating an inclusive society. Cook County and individual municipalities have taken significant strides in safeguarding the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. But the work to ensure housing is fair for the LGBTQ+ community – and all of the seven protected housing classes – continues. We hope you will join us in working toward a county, state, and country where everyone has equal housing opportunities.
*Examples from HUD's website (https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/housing_discrimination_and_persons_identifying_lgbtq)