WASHINGTON — A Department of Housing and Urban Development official said Monday religious institutions receiving federal funds for housing programs will have to abide by a new HUD rule prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people.
John Trasviña, assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, confirmed the rule would impact religious institutions during a conference call in response to a question from the Washington Blade, saying, “All HUD housing providers are covered under this rule.”
Asked to clarify whether these providers include religious institutions, Trasviña replied, “Yes.”
Ian Thompson, the ACLU’s legislative representative, first wrote in a blog posting on the ACLU’s site last week that the rule will cover religious institutions that receive money for federal programs.
“[T]he rule will require all organizations that operate HUD-assisted or HUD-insured housing facilities to serve LGBT Americans looking for shelter and housing — including religious organizations,” Thompson said. “[O]nce a religious organization chooses to provide housing services or programs with the aid of federal funds and benefits from HUD, it cannot shield itself from traditional safeguards that protect civil rights in the provision of those services.”
Thompson added that religious organizations providing entirely private housing services are unaffected by the change.
“We are pleased that HUD said that all organizations must provide equal access to HUD housing programs and did not sanction the use of religion to discriminate,” Thompson concluded.
The rule, first proposed in January, covers programs serving an estimated 5.5 million Americans, including those living in low-income subsidized housing.
The measure, which has four general components, requires owners and operators of HUD-assisted housing to make housing available to applicants and occupants regardless of their LGBT status.
The rule clarifies “families” otherwise eligible for HUD programs can’t be excluded because of one or more members of the family’s sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.
Additionally, the rule prohibits owners and operators of HUD-assisted housing or housing whose financing is insured by HUD from inquiring about the sexual orientation or gender identity of an applicant or occupant of a dwelling, whether renter or owner-occupied.
Trasviña said HUD clarified this provision doesn’t prohibit voluntary and anonymous reporting of LGBT status in state, local or federal data collection requirements.