The rule, first proposed in January, will cover programs serving an estimated 5.5 million Americans, including those living in low-income subsidized housing.

The measure clarifies “families” otherwise eligible for HUD programs can’t be excluded because one or more members of the family is LGBT, in a same-sex relationship, or is perceived to be such an individual or in such a relationship.

It also prohibits owners and operators of HUD-assisted housing or housing whose financing is insured by HUD from inquiring about the sexual orientation or gender identity of an applicant or occupant of a dwelling, whether renter or owner-occupied.

The measure has a bearing on mortgage insurance programs. It prohibits lenders from using LGBT status as a basis to determine a borrower’s eligibility for Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgage financing.

John Trasviña, assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, confirmed the rule would also impact religious institutions, saying during a recent conference call that, “All HUD housing providers are covered under this rule.”

Prior to announcing the development at Creating Change, Donovan told the story of a couple, Mitch and Michelle DeShane, whom he said faced discrimination under the current lack of federal protections in housing. Donovan said two years ago Michelle wanted to add Mitch, a transgender man, to the voucher she receives for affordable housing.

But Donovan said the local housing authority denied the request because the couple didn’t meet its definition of family.

“Then, the DeShanes were referred to a neighboring housing authority – because, as they were apparently told, and I quote, that housing authority, ‘accepts everyone – even Martians,’” Donovan said.

“That’s just wrong,” Donovan concluded. “No one should be subject to that kind of treatment or denied access to housing assistance because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Donovan said the publication of the rule “won’t be the end of the process” and his department will undertake further steps to ensure training and education happen to implement the measure.

“HUD and its fair housing partners will work to provide guidance and training on the substance of this rule — and the impact it will have for both how we administer HUD programs and also how we enforce our nation’s fair housing laws more broadly,” Donovan said.

LGBT groups, whom Donovan credited with providing feedback for the rule when the department solicited comments, praised HUD for making it final.

Rea Carey, the Task Force’s executive director, said the measure “will literally save lives” because many LGBT people “depend on HUD programs to have a roof over their head.”

“Unfortunately, there are landlords out there who would choose to discriminate, putting families in peril,” Carey said. “These housing protections will reduce homelessness and increase economic security for LGBT people, which helps break the cycle of poverty that many families experience due to discrimination.”

Top photo: Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Shaun Donovan became the first Cabinet member to address the LGBT Creating Change conference. (Photo courtesy HUD)

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