Fair Housing Act offers a patchwork of unequal protection

SAN DIEGO – The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision ruled in 2015 that a fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples; however, the right of same sex-couples to rent or purchase a home is not a specific right protected under federal law.

The federal Fair Housing Act, bans discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, familial status, gender and disability, but does not specifically include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression as prohibited bases. Recently, voters in the city of Houston rejected the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance that would have banned housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Against this backdrop, a recent study demonstrated that same-sex couples experience less favorable treatment than heterosexual couples in the online rental housing market.

While the federal government bans housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity only in government-operated housing, states and cities across of the country have had to enact specific laws that ban housing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons because the federal Fair Housing Act does not grant specific protections to LGBT persons.

Currently, a same-sex couple can marry but can still be denied the opportunity to purchase or rent a home together because of the unequal protection of fair housing rights for LGBT persons under federal law.

However, California specifically bans housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

For more information, call The Legal Aid Society of San Diego at (844) 449-3500 or visit www.lassd.org.

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