welcome mat in front of a door

Elder advocacy organizations said Thursday that they welcomed an announcement by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that it now interprets the Fair Housing Act to bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

HUD offices and recipients of HUD funds will be directed to enforce the act accordingly.

“In the housing market, older adults continue to face discrimination based on their gender identity and sexual orientation,” Linda Couch, vice president of housing policy for LeadingAge, told McKnight’s Senior Living. “HUD’s stance today will bring justice to older adults who seek to participate in a housing market free from discrimination and will send a clear message to all that such discrimination is illegal.”

In December, LeadingAge called on the then-Biden transition team to strengthen Fair Housing Act tools and enforcement. “We are very encouraged by steps taken in the first three weeks of the Biden administration to this end,” Couch said.

HUD Principal Deputy General Counsel Damon Y. Smith said that enforcing the Fair Housing  Act to combat housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity “isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s the correct reading of the law after Bostock. We are simply saying that the same discrimination that the Supreme Court has said is illegal in the workplace is also illegal in the housing market.”

In Bostock v Clayton County, the Supreme Court held that workplace prohibitions on sex discrimination include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. HUD is interpreting the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition on sex discrimination in housing to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Building on the Bostock v. Clayton County decision upholding nondiscrimination protections in employment, this step by HUD and the Biden administration helps ensure LGBT elders’ equal access to housing in every single state and locality in the nation. LGBT older people will — literally and figuratively — be in a better place,” elder LGBT advocacy organization SAGE said Thursday in a statement to McKnight’s Senior Living. “We hope and believe that this historic step by the Biden administration will ensure safe and adequate housing opportunities that LGBT elders haven’t been able to access before. We look forward to working with HUD and the Biden administration to build on the progress we witnessed today and to create more LGBT elder housing opportunities across the country.”

Read the HUD memorandum here.