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National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund Executive Director Rea Carey testified before Congress today, calling on federal lawmakers to amend the Fair Housing Act to ban discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Carey made the remarks in her testimony at the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties hearing, "Protecting the American Dream: A Look at the Fair Housing Act." The Task Force was the only LGBT rights group presenting testimony at today’s historic hearing. Carey presented lawmakers with individuals' personal stories of discrimination and also presented the hard data that demonstrates why amending the Fair Housing Act is critical.

Right now the Fair Housing Act protects against housing discrimination based on race or color, religion, sex, national origin, family status or disability. But the truth of the matter is, every day in America, people are discriminated in housing simply because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity.

"For us, the pursuit of the American dream, including home ownership, is a risky proposition. When our sexual orientation or gender identity is known, either because we offer it willingly or a landlord, realtor or lender is made aware by other means, there is potential for outright hostility, property damage and even physical violence," Carey testified.

The Task Force has heard stories over the years from lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgender people who were discriminated against when trying to secure a roof over their heads. One same-sex couple was forced to tell potential landlords they were roommates because they were harassed and rejected when they applied as a couple. In Baltimore, a transgender man upon meeting the potential landlord, was confronted with a $100 per month increase in the quoted rent and was told checks were not accepted. When his female friend inquired about the same apartment, she was told checks were accepted and the rent was not raised.

Discrimination of this kind is pervasive, especially among transgender people. Carey also cited preliminary data from a forthcoming and groundbreaking national survey of transgender and gender identity discrimination in the U.S. by the Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality. Disturbingly, the study found that 11 percent of transgender people reported having been evicted and 19 percent reported becoming homeless due to bias. While the general population has a home ownership rate of 68 percent, our survey showed only a 32 percent rate among transgender people.

LGBT seniors also face heightened housing insecurity. As the Task Force report Outing Age lays out, LGBT seniors are more likely to be forced to leave their home because of increased financial costs resulting from anti-LGBT discrimination. As seniors need to move out of their homes and into smaller residences, they are especially vulnerable.

The apartment's suddenly not available, the house is no longer on the market, the price just shot up...you name it, landlords, real estate agents and lenders are not prohibited from discriminating against folks who are LGBT. Twenty states and D.C. prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and 13 states and D.C. include gender identity. But this patchwork of legislation simply is not enough, and local protections often do not offer robust enforcement and recourse to victims. Amending the Fair Housing Act would provide baseline protection for LGBT people living outside currently protected jurisdictions, and it would provide.

Carey ended her testimony with this: "LGBT individuals suffer pervasive discrimination in so many areas of their lives. No one should be evicted, be kept from living in certain areas, or pay more rent simply because of who they are. Nor should anyone have to lie about who they are in order to have safe housing. For all these reasons, the Fair Housing Act should be amended to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity."

To read the full testimony submitted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, click here.

Originally posted to National Gay and Lesbian Task Force on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 10:36 AM PST.

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