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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has introduced a new rule intended to ensure equal access to the department's core housing programs for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, speaking yesterday at the National Conference on LGBT Equality, called the new regulations a victory for equal rights.

"With this historic rule, the administration is saying you cannot use taxpayer dollars to prevent Americans from choosing where they want to live on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity - ensuring that HUD's housing programs are open, not to some, not to most, but to all," he said.

The final rule, published as "Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs - Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity," requires owners and operators of HUD-assisted or -insured housing to make housing available without regard to the sexual orientation or gender identity of an applicant. HUD will institute this policy in its rental assistance and homeownership programs, which include the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage insurance programs, community development programs, and public and assisted housing programs.

Furthermore, the rule adds new language that specifically prohibits lenders from using actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity as a basis to determine a borrower’s eligibility for FHA-insured mortgage financing. Owners and operators of HUD-assisted or -insured housing are prohibited from asking about an applicant's or occupant's sexual orientation and gender identity for the purpose of determining eligibility or otherwise making housing available. The rule also clarifies that otherwise eligible families may not be excluded because one or more members of the family may be an LGBT individual or have an LGBT relationship.

"The Obama administration has viewed the fight for equality on behalf of the LGBT community as a priority and I’m proud that HUD has been a leader in that fight," said Donovan.

The new rule will be published as final in the Federal Register next week and will go into effect 30 days later.

However, Donovan did not use his announcement to call for the expansion of the Fair Housing Act to specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. According to HUD, approximately 20 states, the District of Columbia and more than 150 municipalities and counties have laws specifically prohibiting housing discrimination against LGBT individuals.

HUD's new 58-page final rule is available online.


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