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Fair Housing Protects LGBT People

Estate--housingFor the first time, a federal judge has ruled that provisions in the Fair Housing Act protect against LGBT discrimination. The law states that it is illegal to refuse to rent or sell property to anyone based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin. But questions have been raised as to whether fair housing and other anti-discrimination laws also encompasses sexual orientation and gender identity when they are not explicitly named as protected classes.

U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore’s ruling in Denver federal court came in a case involving a married couple, Rachel Smith, a transgender woman, and Tonya Smith. The couple says a landlord in Boulder, Colo., denied them and their two children a three-bedroom rental townhome in April 2015 because of their sexual orientation. The family had met with the landlord to see the property, but the couple later received an email from the landlord saying “they were not welcome to rent the townhouse” because a neighboring family was concerned about the children and “noise.”

“I was fairly certain what she [the landlord] was implying,” Tonya Smith told The Washington Post. “But I asked for clarification. She said because it was a small town and everybody gossips, our unique relationship and our status would be the talk of the town, and she wouldn’t be able to keep a low profile anymore.”

Moore said in his ruling: “Discrimination against women [like Rachel and Tonya Smith] for failure to conform to stereotype norms concerning to or with whom a woman should be attracted, should marry, and/or should have children is discrimination on the basis of sex under the FHA. … Such stereotypical norms are no different from other stereotypes associated with women, such as the way she should dress or act (e.g., that a woman should not be overly aggressive, or should not act macho), and are products of sex stereotyping.”

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a lawyer representing the couple, says Moore’s ruling is the first in the nation to state that “sex” in the context of the fair housing law includes sexual orientation and gender identity. “It’s an important ruling,” Gonzalez-Pagan says.

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