LGBTQ+ Rights Win, But There's More Work to Do
This week the United States Supreme Court ruled that employers with more than 15 employees cannot discriminate against workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. This landmark decision is a monumental step that helped LGBTQ+ persons around our country breathe a collective sigh of relief in the midst of ongoing battles, such as equal access to homeless services. While this ruling is thrilling, there is still so much work to do.
In most states, it remains legal to discriminate against queer and trans people in housing and public accommodations. The continued lack of protections has ongoing consequences to LGBTQ+ individuals, who disproportionately experience homelessness in our country and state. During the Texas Balance of State Continuum of Care 2020 Winter Point-In-Time Count, 164 LGBTQ+ persons were identified. While this is likely an undercount because this question is not asked on every survey, it still means there is a minimum of 164 LGBTQ+ youth and adults experiencing homelessness on any given day. Beyond Texas, an estimated 400,000 homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+ and a Williams Institute Study found that 43% of clients served by drop-in centers identified as LGBT, 30% of street outreach clients identified as LGBTQ+, and 30% of clients utilizing housing programs identified as LGBTQ+.
The impacts of housing discrimination and community resources have detrimental impacts on those who identify as LGBTQ+. One in five trans people has been discriminated against in the United States while seeking a home. For example, studies have shown that landlords are less likely to respond to inquiries from same-sex couples and are more likely to quote male same-sex couples higher rents. If LGBTQ+ people/households want to buy a home, they have even more challenges than their cisgender and/or straight counterparts. Same-sex couples face system-wide discrimination by mortgage lenders, with one study finding that same-sex borrowers experienced a 3% to 8% lower approval rate and, among approved loans, higher interest and/or fees, when compared to different-sex borrowers of similar profiles. At the end of the day, homeownership is not as common for people who identify as LGBTQ+ and is even lower among racial minorities and trans individuals in the LGBTQ+ community.
While employment discrimination protections are important, a salary cannot be spent on mortgage or rent for a housing opportunity you were legally discriminated against obtaining. With no current protections against discrimination in Texas for housing and public accommodations, we know that rates of homelessness for those who identify as LGBTQ+ will not decrease based on employment protections alone. Texas lawmakers intend to fight against similar protections for the LGBTQ community in the upcoming legislative session, so Texas advocates need to prepare for an uphill battle.
As we move forward, it is imperative that we remain vigilant about how we are working to create equity in our communities. We must fight to protect LGBTQ+ persons from violence and discrimination, with an emphasis on trans women of color. Trans women of color experience the highest rates of violence, discrimination, and death due to their identity. We cannot fight for protections without also fighting for racial justice for those not only discriminated against for their gender identity or sexual orientation, but also for the color of their skin. We need to fight for equitable access to healthcare and housing, employment in the military, right to expression and engagement in school activities, and access to sports and community resources.
A major move we can make as a country is to continue the enactment of the federal Equality Act, passed by the House of Representatives last year but stalled in the Senate. As explained in this recent article, the Act would extend the comprehensive anti-bias protections already provided to LGBT people in 21 (mostly Democratic-governed) states to all 50 states — addressing such sectors as housing, public accommodations, and public services. This Act would help protect LGBTQ+ persons from discrimination across a multitude of sectors and would update the scope of businesses covered under the federal civil rights laws.
There are many more solutions beyond the Equality Act to create a better world for our LGBTQ+ neighbors. It is our responsibility to continue pushing education, fighting for equity in our communities, and combating the systems that uphold racial and lgbtq+ discriminatory practices. At this very moment, lives depend on us to continue and we cannot stop at employment.
A final note to honor the LGBTQ family we’ve lost this year:
According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 14 transgender people have been killed in the U.S. so far this year,
the majority being trans women of color, including two Black trans women last week.