HUD to rollback protections for transgender people in taxpayer-funded homeless shelters

“The ACLU will fight back against this attempt to write discrimination into the law. Shelters funded by taxpayers should be open to all – period.”

Image Credit: Oliver Contreras/SIPA

The Department of Housing and Development announced a new proposal to rollback the Equal Access Rule, which was published in 2012 to prohibit housing programs from discriminating based on a person’s sexuality, and instead allow federal-funded, sex-segregated shelters to use “privacy, safety, practical concerns, religious beliefs” and sex listed on government documents to make decisions regarding housing. This would allow homeless shelters the opportunity to discriminate against transgender people.

“This is a heartless attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), said.

The new proposal, which would rollback the Obama-era rule, was announced last week right after HUD secretary “told House lawmakers the Trump administration had no plans to change federal rules designed to protect LGTBQ people from housing discrimination,” Common Dreams reported.

The Trump administration’s new proposal would no longer “required single-sex or sex-segregated shelters to admit people based on their gender self-identification,” The Intercept_ reported.

A spokesperson for HUD said the department believes “that shelters should be able to decide for themselves how to define sex consistent with state and local law.”

“The previous Administration issued a rule in 2016 mandating that single-sex or sex-segregated shelters admit individuals based solely on a person’s self-identification of sex. Under this 2016 rule, women’s shelters are required to admit biological males who self-identify on a given day as female, and men’s shelters must admit females who self-identify as male.”

Advocates for the LGBTQ community said that the proposal to rollback the Equal Access Rule will make a dire situation even more devastating. According to the the National Center for Transgender Equality, 1 in 3 transgender people have been homeless in their lives and 70 percent of transgender people who have used a shelter have experienced harassment.

“The programs impacted by this rule are lifesaving for transgender people, particularly youth rejected by their families, and a lack of stable housing fuels the violence and abuse that takes the lives of many transgender people of color across the country,” Keisling said.

Ian Thompson, senior legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement:

“This is yet another dangerous and disgraceful attack on transgender people from the Trump administration, as well as another attempt to license taxpayer-funded discrimination in the name of religion. Many transgender and non-binary people experience pervasive discrimination in the workplace and in housing, made even more heartbreaking by violence and rejection at home. For transgender people, particularly trans youth of color and Black trans women who experience homelessness at appallingly high rates, the crisis is especially dire, and has led to a devastating and largely unaddressed epidemic of violence and death.

“When shelters are allowed to turn transgender people away – a policy that is sanctioned by a government that continues to push the lie that the mere existence of trans people threatens the privacy and safety of others – deadly violence against the trans community on the streets will rise.

“The ACLU will fight back against this attempt to write discrimination into the law. Shelters funded by taxpayers should be open to all – period.”

Under the new proposal, shelters will also have the right to “consider their own religious beliefs when deciding whether to admit a person experiencing homelessness,” The Intercept_ reported. HUD said that the Equal Access Rule doesn’t provide “flexibility for faith-based shelter providers with deeply held religious convictions.

The new proposal is currently under review by the Office of Management and Budget and, if passed, the changes could go into effect as soon as September.


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