Its legal to deny housing to LGBTQ Virginians unless this new law is passed
In the state of Virginia, it is currently legal to deny housing to individuals or couples because they are LGBTQ. Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) hopes to change that with House Bill 1454, which would make discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity illegal.
As it stands, neither federal nor state housing laws protect sexual orientation or gender identity from discriminatory practices, meaning a renter or realtor could deny a house to someone because they are in a same-sex relationship or are transgender.
This is the second year Simon has brought the legislation forward, after years of his predecessor Jim Scott submitting it when he was in the House for Fairfax.
“Hopefully it’ll be the last,” said Simon.
Current law only offers protection against discrimination based on race, color, age, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap.
HB 1454 is a renewed attempt to pass anti-discriminatory housing legislation for the LGBTQ community. The 2014 General Assembly session included several bills which would have expanded protections to the LGBTQ community, those bills failed to get out of committee despite a large amount of support.
Last year the state’s largest realtor group, the Virginia Association of Realtors (VAR), opposed similar legislation, and could maintain that stance again this session.
“I would assume it would be something similar, but again I don’t know,” said Martin Johnson, chief of policy and advocacy at VAR. “I really can’t comment right now because I wouldn’t want to say anything that might change in the next couple weeks.”
Last year, Stacy Ricks, Director of Public Relations at Virginia Association of Realtors, said REALTORS® oppose discrimination of any kind and fully support equal access to housing. She said REALTORs members must follow the organizations regulations, which include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.
“VAR members practice under the Federal Fair Housing Law and VAR believes that the state fair housing law should stay in line with the federal,” said Ricks.
Ricks refused to confirm or deny support for Simon’s bill until her and her group expressed opposition to it when it went before a House committee. The bill was then tabled and effectively killed.
Simon said a number of regional Realtor groups had expressed support for the bill this year, but he wasn’t sure if the state-wide group would change their stance.
“Why would you want to have a different standard for non-Realtors?” asked Simon. “I don’t think anybody should be subject discrimination, but I think there’s also a business argument to be made for it.”
But without a federal or state law protecting the LGBTQ community, there is still evidence of discrimination.
According to a nationwide study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, same-sex couples experienced discrimination 16 percent of the time when seeking rental housing.
The HUD study found adverse treatment is found primarily in the form of same-sex couples receiving fewer responses to the e-mail inquiry than heterosexual couples, and while “no clearcut pattern exists in the magnitude of adverse treatment by metropolitan market size,” discrimination exists in all metropolitan areas.
The National Center for Transgender Equality found that one in five transgender people in the U.S. have been refused housing, and more than one in ten have been evicted because of their gender identity.
Equality Virginia said discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is a real problem in the state.
“For many LGBT Virginians, discriminatory housing is a barrier to finding safe and affordable shelter. Equality Virginia strongly supports this bill,” said Kirsten Bokenkamp, Communications Director for EV. ”The bottom line is discrimination against LGBT Virginians is wrong.”
Simon said the end of VA’s ban on same-sex marriage should also play a role in the future of the bill.
“I think public opinion is swinging on this, even in rural areas,” said Simon. “As politicians recognize public opinion is with us on this, legislative resistance will start to ease.”
PewDiePie, a video game and comedy youtuber with over 45 million subscribers, released a video last week claiming his landlord kicked him and his team out of his apartment because he’s gay. The UK resident and Swedish native, whose real name is Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg and identifies as straight, gets millions of views on his [...]June 21, 2016
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