Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has removed anti-discrimination language from the agency’s mission statement, the latest reported anti-LGBT move by HUD.
Carson, who has a history of making anti-LGBTQ statements, calling LGBTQ people “abnormal” and not deserving of so-called “special rights” (Read: Equal rights), reportedly developed the new statement with input from HUD Deputy Secretary Pam Patenaude.
The new statement reads as follows:
HUD’s mission is to ensure Americans have access to fair, affordable housing and opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency, thereby strengthening our communities and nation.
The previous statement, still posted on HUD’s website, included a pledge to “build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.”
The new statement went out to HUD political staff via a March 5 memo, sent to HuffPost by a HUD employee, in which Amy Thompson, the department’s assistant secretary for public affairs, noted the statement was being updated “in an effort to align HUD’s mission with the Secretary’s priorities and that of the Administration.”
Anyone paying attention to the administration’s anti-LGBTQ actions should be concerned by that statement.
While the Fair Housing Act has been read as protecting LGBTQ people, during the Obama administration, it does not explicitly state that sexual orientation or gender identity are included in protections against housing discrimination.
Instead, it simply lists “sex,” which the HUD website, at least for now, argues covers the LGBTQ community:
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and familial status (i.e., presence of children under the age of 18 in the household or pregnancy). The Fair Housing Act does not specifically include sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited bases. However, discrimination against a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) person may be covered by the Fair Housing Act if it is based on non-conformity with gender stereotypes. For example, if a housing provider refuses to rent to an LGBT person because he believes the person acts in a manner that does not conform to his notion of how a person of a particular sex should act, the person may pursue the matter as a violation of the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition of sex.
However, there is already precedent that suggests the Trump administration does not view sex discrimination as covering LGBTQ people.
The Department of Justice is refusing to hear complaints by transgender students blocked by their schools from using the facilities matching their gender identity, taking the stance that Title IX’s protections against sex discrimination do not include gender identity.
The Trump administration has also made clear it will prioritize so-called “religious freedom rights” over the rights of LGBTQ people, creating a new department to allow healthcare workers to deny services if it conflicts with their beliefs.
The DOJ has also intervened in a case to argue that civil rights law against sex discrimination does not include protections on the basis of sexual orientation.
The updated HUD mission statement comes on the heels of a New York magazine report that department leadership had:
… ordered the removal of online training materials meant, in part, to help homeless shelters make sure they were providing equal access to transgender people. It also pulled back a survey regarding projects in Cincinnati and Houston to reduce LGBT homelessness. And it forced its Policy Development and Research division to dissociate itself from a major study it had funded on housing discrimination against gay, lesbian, and transgender people — the study ended up being released in late June under the aegis of the Urban Institute instead.
People For the American Way (PFAW) has filed suit against the Trump administration, demanding the release of documents from HUD that might show any anti-LGBTQ plans, as well as for the release of similar documents from the DOJ.
HUD did not respond to HuffPost‘s request for comment on the updated mission statement.