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Senate to consider expanding fair housing protections for LGBTQ people

Bill would add gender identity and sexual orientation to protected classes

A study released last month showed that same-sex couples are more likely to be denied a mortgage and pay more for one (should they be approved) than heterosexual couples.

Now, a new bill in Congress is seeking to address those disparities by adding more fair housing protections for LGBTQ people.

Currently, the federal Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or disability; but a new bill introduced late last month in the Senate would expand the Fair Housing Act to include gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes.

The bill, titled the “Fair and Equal Housing Act of 2019,” was introduced late last month by Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia; Susan Collins, R-Maine; and Angus King, I-Maine.

The bill would make it illegal to deny anyone a mortgage or a rental opportunity based on their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.

This isn’t the first time that Kaine has attempted to increase the protections afforded by the Fair Housing Act.

In 2017, Kaine led the introduction of the Fair and Equal Housing Act of 2017, which also would have added gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes under the Fair Housing Act.

That bill was not approved, and now, Kaine, who spent much of his pre-political career as a fair housing attorney, is trying again.

“I began my career as a fair housing lawyer and I saw firsthand how housing has the power to influence families’ health, stability, economic prospects, and the futures they build,” Kaine said in a statement.

“No American should be turned away from a house because of who they love, but that’s the reality many LGBTQ Americans face when they look for a home,” Kaine added. “This is about ensuring all Americans have equal access to housing.”

According to Kaine’s office, currently, 21 states, the District of Columbia, and more than 200 localities protect sexual orientation and gender identity in their housing discrimination statutes, but Kaine’s bill would take those protections to a federal level.

“All Americans deserve a fair and equal opportunity in the sale, rental, or financing of housing,” Collins said in a statement. “Throughout my Senate service, I have worked to end discrimination against LGBTQ Americans, and it is time we ensure that all people have full access to housing regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. I urge our colleagues to join us in supporting this important legislation.”

King said the legislation is necessary to ensure that LGBTQ Americans have the same access to housing as everyone else.

“Safe and affordable housing is the basic building block for all Americans seeking to achieve economic, educational, and personal success,” King said. “No one should be denied access to this vital resource because of who they are – but unfortunately, under current law there are no protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This is wrong, plain and simple.”

In addition to King and Collins, the legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-NH; Richard Blumenthal, D-CT; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI; Tammy Baldwin, D-WI; Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH; Robert Menendez, D-NJ; Amy Klobuchar, D-MN; Catherine Cortez Masto, D-NV; Ron Wyden, D-OR; and Tina Smith, D-MN.

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