Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Housing discrimination finally getting much deserved attention

If you experience housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in Tennessee, you don't have many options. In fact, you only have one option, and that's if you live in Davidson County, and it's a very limited option. You can report it to the Metro Human Relations Commission. You will not be able to get the complaint resolved because there is no local ordinance, state statute, or federal law that will rectify the discrimination you've experienced. The Tennessee Human Rights Commission, for example, does not include sexual orientation or gender identity on its complaint form.

Despite the media focus on Don't Ask, Don't Tell and marriage, housing issues are very much on the minds of many in our community. Last week someone forwarded me an email exchange about a man in Nashville who had experienced housing discrimination. The victim was shocked that no laws applied. I was also recently asked about homeless shelters that are inclusive of transgender people.

The federal government is finally paying attention to these questions. Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) has introduced a bill that would amend the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It is called the Fair and Inclusive Housing Rights Act of 2010 (H.R. 4820). Another encouraging sign is the recent announcement by the Department of Housing and Urban Development that they are going to study housing discrimination against the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.

My guess is that the federal housing bill won't move a great deal until the study is completed, but that's no reason to hold off pushing for it. We'd love to see Congressmen Steve Cohen and Jim Cooper (and others) sign on as co-sponsors of the bill. With their support of ENDA and last year's hate crimes bill, it shouldn't be much of a stretch for them to support Congressman Nadler's legislation. Like protection from violence and employment discrimination, access to housing is one of the basics. The bill is easily in sync with the views of their constituents.

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