February 11, 2021

Mary Emily O’Hara
Rapid Response Manager

Today, officials in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that the federal agency will take steps to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination in housing. HUD is the first to implement President Joe Biden’s January 20 executive order that instructs all federal agencies to apply the Supreme Court’s 2020 Bostock decision that interprets the federal law banning sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

In a statement Thursday morning, HUD said LGBTQ housing discrimination requires “urgent enforcement action.” The agency plans to begin investigating complaints of anti-LGBTQ housing discrimination, interpret the Fair Housing Act’s ban on sex discrimination to include LGBTQ protections, direct states and jurisdictions receiving Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) funds to similarly interpret local laws, and direct organizations and agencies receiving Fair Housing Initiative Program (FHIP) funds to “prevent and combat” anti-LGBTQ discrimination. In addition, HUD announced that it will review all complaints of anti-LGBTQ housing discrimination logged since January 20th within the next 30 days.

“For too long, LGBTQ Americans have faced rampant discrimination in housing and shelter,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “Whether being turned away by landlords, mortgage lenders, or shelters, anti-LGBTQ discrimination has largely gone unchecked in the majority of U.S. states that have no laws protecting our community from housing discrimination. Rates of poverty and homelessness are higher for LGBTQ people, and HUD’s move to offer protections is direly needed to ensure our community’s safety and wellbeing.”


  • An April 2020 study published by the Williams Institute showed that LGBTQ people suffer higher rates of homelessness and poverty, lower rates of home ownership, and face rampant discrimination when seeking housing and shelter. 
  • As many as 45% of homeless youth are LGBTQ, and many face discrimination in shelters and in foster care. 
  • Landlords are less likely to respond to rental inquiries from same-sex couples.
  • Same-sex couples looking to buy homes have lower approval rates and higher interest rate offers from mortgage lenders. In fact, a 2019 Iowa State University study found, same-sex couples are 73% more likely to be denied a mortgage despite being “less risky overall.”
  • Only a minority of U.S. states (22 in total) have laws that ban housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity—leaving the majority of LGBTQ Americans vulnerable to discrimination.

Biden’s January 20th executive action directed federal agencies to interpret sex discrimination the way the Supreme Court did in June 2020—by including discirmination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in the definition of ‘sex.’ The Supreme Court’s Bostock ruling found that the sex discrimination ban in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should extend to protecting LGBTQ people from workplace discrimination, and since then courts have expanded upon that ruling to state that Title VII protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in other areas of life as well. 

The HUD statement does not address former Secretary Ben Carson’s update to the Equal Access Rule, which Carson proposed modifying in July 2020. That modification directed shelters to make their own determinations regarding gender identity, effectively allowing shelters to turn away transgender people. In September, GLAAD wrote a letter to the Department of Housing and Urban Development asking that Carson’s rule change be withdrawn immediately.

But on Wednesday, the Biden administration agreed to a court-ordered pause on a last-minute Trump administration rule finalized this January that scrapped LGBTQ protections at the Department of Health and Human Services. Many shelters also receive HHS funds; by halting the Trump rule, Biden’s HHS on Wednesday put LGBTQ protections back in place for shelters that receive HHS funding.