A federal judge has ruled that LGBTQ people are protected from housing discrimination under the Fair Housing Act, interpreting the law’s ban on sex-based discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
A Colorado couple, Tonya and Rachel Smith, sued a local landlord after being told they couldn’t rent a house because they’re in a same-sex relationship and Rachel is a transgender woman.
The landlord, Deepika Avanti, initially told the couple she couldn’t rent the house in Gold Hill, CO, to them because of noise concerns about their two young children, according to the lawsuit, but later sent them an email saying their “unique relationship” was the reason she was rejecting their application.
On Wednesday evening, Judge Raymond Moore of the Denver U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the Smiths, writing that discriminating against women for being attracted to women constitutes sex-based discrimination:
In this case, the Smiths contend that discrimination against women (like them) 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. The Court agrees. 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.
The decision comes just a day after a panel of federal court judges ruled that the Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQ people from employment discrimination, setting an important precedent for LGBTQ employment discrimination cases around the nation.
And it’s particularly timely given concerns over the anti-LGBTQ track record of Ben Carson, Trump’s secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, who will decide the future of HUD guidelines that currently interpret the Fair Housing Act as being inclusive of LGBTQ people.