In March, 2012, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published a new rule that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status in HUD housing programs. Read the full text of the rule here, or see GNOFHAC’s fact sheet and HUD’s fact sheet on the rule below.
On April 11, 2012 GNOFHAC held a community forum to discuss the new LGBT rule. Below are some questions that arose during the event and their answers.
1. Where does the definition of sexual orientation (and gender identity) come from? Some individuals felt that they do not identify as homosexual, bisexual or heterosexual, and that this definition could be seen as limiting.
The definition of sexual orientation came from a publication by the Office of Personnel Management entitled, ‘‘Addressing Sexual Orientation in Federal Civilian Employment: A Guide to Employee Rights.’’ The definition of gender identity came from the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. During the comment period for the rule, a few commenters expressed concerns similar to those of the individuals at your presentation: that the definitions were too limiting and could exclude people. However, HUD felt it was best to use definitions already set in federal policy, and stated in the final rule that “HUD seeks to experience how (these) term(s) will work in practice before making changes to a definition currently established in federal policy.”
2. It seems limiting that the rule is called the “LGBT rule” which de-emphasizes the marital status part of the rule. It’s a missed opportunity to focus on the widespread impact of the marital status clause on LGBT and non-LGBT individuals. Could you explain why it is called the LGBT rule?
“LGBT Rule” is really just the shorthand nickname that HUD has taken to using, mainly because its full name is a mouthful. That being said, others have taken to calling it the “Equal Access” rule, to emphasize that the rule covers not just LGBT individuals, but unmarried heterosexual (or homosexual) couples. Regardless of its shorthand name, our education and outreach efforts around the rule strive to teach the public about the contents of the rule, which of course includes protections of sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status.
3. Will the Church challenge this rule, especially the provision that religious organizations that receive HUD funding must comply?
Religious institutions (and the public generally) had the opportunity to comment on the proposed rule’s content during the notice and comment period, which occurred from January to March 2011. Now that the rule has been made final, there is no administrative way to challenge the rule. If a religious organization (or any other organization) does not want to comply with the rule, they can make the choice to not pursue HUD funds. If the entity receives funds, they must comply with the rule.
4. Do those at HUD foresee this redefinition of family leading to the expansion of the definition of family in other program areas, like education and employment (ex. Arizona school systems have an expanded definition of family because of the cultural diversity within the community.)
We at HUD can’t really speculate if other agencies, federal or state, will clarify or modify the definition of “family” that is used in their programs. However, as HUD is the first agency to initiate rulemaking to ensure that its core programs are open to all individuals regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status, we hope that our rule can serve as a model for other agencies when they consider how to ensure equal access to their programs.