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Judge rules Fair Housing Act protects against LGBT discrimination

By Mike Wheatley | April 11, 2017

A U.S. judge has ruled for the first time that provisions in the Fair Housing Act protect the LGBT community from discrimination. The law was previously an issue of contention as it states that it’s illegal for landlords to “refuse to rent or sell property to anyone based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin,” but says nothing about sexual orientation and gender identity.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the original Fair Housing Act in 1968. Source: Pace University

However, U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore, in a Denver federal court case involving Rachel Smith, a transgender woman, and her spouse, Tonya Smith, ruled that the Fair Housing Act does offer protection to gays and lesbians as well as other ethnic minorities.

The couple filed a lawsuit complaining of discrimination after a Boulder, Colo., landlord chose not to rent them and their two children a three-bedroom townhome in April 2015. The couple claimed the landlord rejected them due to their sexual orientation after meeting them to view the property. However, the landlord said the real reason for the rejection was because a neighboring family was worried about the “noise” from the children.

However, Tonya Smith told the Washington Post that she was "fairly certain what she [the landlord] was implying.”

When pressed, Smith alleges that the landlord said because it was a small town where everyone gossips, the couple’s “unique relationship and our status would be the talk of the town, and she wouldn't be able to keep a low profile anymore."

Judge Moore sided with the couple in his ruling, saying that the landlords’ reasons for rejecting the couple amounted to discrimination.

"Discrimination against women [like Rachel and Tonya Smith] for failure to conform to stereotype norms concerning to or with whom a woman should be attracted, should marry, and/or should have children is discrimination on the basis of sex under the FHA,” he said. “Such stereotypical norms are no different from other stereotypes associated with women, such as the way she should dress or act (e.g., that a woman should not be overly aggressive, or should not act macho), and are products of sex stereotyping.”

The couple’s lawyer Omar Gonzalez-Pagan said the ruling was the first in the country that states “sex” in the context of the Fair Housing Act covers both sexual orientation and gender identity.

“It’s an important ruling,” Gonzalez-Pagan said, noting that it sets a precedent for similar cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity around the country.

Mike Wheatley is the senior editor at Realty Biz News. Got a real estate related news article you wish to share, contact Mike at [email protected].
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