By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor
Washington, DC–Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), along with Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), introduced the Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act last week, which seeks to modify the Fair Housing Act in a number of ways, including extending federal civil rights protections to people based upon their sexual orientation, gender identity or source of income.
In the current Congress, Nadler is chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Conyers is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Towns is chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, will probably become chairman in January; Rep. Lamar S. Smith (R-Tex.), ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, is expected to become chairman of that committee with the swearing-in of the new Congress.
Besides banning discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation, gender identity or income source, the HOME Act would add protections based on marital status and reinforce existing protections for people who are discriminated against after they have already rented or purchased a home. It would also change the definition of “familiar status” to be more inclusive of nontraditional family types.
Since 1968, the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act, has banned various forms of housing discrimination in the United States. Currently, the law makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability or familial status. The act does not explicitly extend protections to LGBT people, or home seekers who intend to pay for housing with government assistance.
The HOME Act would essentially federalize a patchwork of state and local laws that deal with protections for LGBT people in housing. Currently 20 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and 14 states and DC prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. A number of municipalities ban those kinds of discrimination as well. Twelve states and DC outlaw discrimination based on source of income.