Maine Senators Susan Collins and Angus King joined with Virginia Senator Tim Kaine in promoting the Fair and Equal Housing Act of 2019. The senators are introducing legislation intended to add gender identity and sexual orientation to the classes that are protected from discrimination by the Fair Housing Act.
“All Americans deserve a fair and equal opportunity in the sale, rental, or financing of housing,” said Senator Collins. “Throughout my Senate service, I have worked to end discrimination against LGBTQ Americans, and it is time we ensure that all people have full access to housing regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. I urge our colleagues to join us in supporting this important legislation.”
“Safe and affordable housing is the basic building block for all Americans seeking to achieve economic, educational, and personal success,” said Senator King. “No one should be denied access to this vital resource because of who they are – but unfortunately, under current law there are no protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This is wrong, plain and simple. We need this legislation to make sure LGBTQ Americans have the same access to housing as anyone else.”
This is not the first time the Fair Housing Act has been applied to the LGBTQ community. In August 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that landlords could be held liable for discrimination if they failed to respond to harassment faced by tenants who belong to a protected class.
In its ruling, the three-member panel of judges said that not only did the Fair Housing Act create liability when a landlord intentionally discriminated against a tenant based on a protected characteristic, but “it also creates liability against a landlord that has actual notice of tenant‐on‐tenant harassment based on a protected status, yet chooses not to take any reasonable steps within its control to stop that harassment.”
Recognizing the need for the mortgage industry to conduct further outreach to the LGBTQ community for the purpose of educating on current opportunities for homeownership and being educated on emerging issues and concerns, the American Mortgage Diversity Council (AMDC) conducted a series of four discussions in strategically selected locations across the country. Each meeting was attended by approximately ten mortgage industry executives and approximately 10 senior leaders from local advocacy organizations provide services for the LGBTQ communities within their respective communities. These discussions provided an opportunity for these leaders to have a frank discussion in an open setting regarding issues affecting the LGBTQ community, both from a homeownership and workplace inclusion perspective. A report on concerns that were brought to light within the series of meetings and proposed remedial measures addressing the current issues can be found here.
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