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Illustration by NHM

Illustration by NHM

The next time you and your same-sex partner are in the market for an apartment, consider a new study from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that found discriminatory practices among landlords around the country. According to the first-ever report of its kind, renters who identified themselves as heterosexual in emails were most likely to hear from landlords about rental properties compared to same-sex couples.

In nearly 16 percent of the tests, which were conducted in 50 different urban areas throughout the U.S., heterosexual couples were favored over gay and lesbians couples based on emails that were sent to landlords. For each paired test, two emails were sent to a housing provider asking about an actual rental unit that was advertised online. The only difference between the emails was whether the couple was same-sex or heterosexual. Unfavorable treatment was measured by whether the tester was told the unit was available, asked to contact the landlord, invited to the see the apartment, or received any response at all.

In most cases, heterosexual couples heard from the landlord first, while lesbians were contacted second and gay men were reached out to last.

Based on the results, HUD estimates that LGBT discrimination is actually much more widespread in the housing market than anticipated. In many cities around the country, where there are no laws protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, same-sex couples were even more likely to face problems (only 20 states and a few dozen municipalities prohibit housing discrimination). And while the Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate against potential renters or buyers based on race, religion or sex, it doesn’t include sexual orientation or gender identity.

Recently, however, HUD issued new guidelines that treats discrimination based on gender non-conformity or sex stereotyping as sex discrimination under the act, and instructs HUD staff to inform individuals filing complaints about state and local agencies that have LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination laws. Earlier this year, HUD also published a final rule which requires any HUD-funded and HUD-insured housing providers and FHA-approved lenders to provide equal access without regard to sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status.

“A person’s sexual orientation or gender identity should not be a reason to receive unfavorable treatment when searching for housing,” says Bryan Greene, HUD Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

Have you ever faced discrimination for being LGBT?

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