WASHINGTON — Virginia congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D) wants the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to revise a rule change that would reportedly discriminate against transgender Americans who seek emergency and temporary shelter.
Rep. Wexton's office said the proposed rule has already come under fire for instructing federally funded shelters to judge a person’s physical characteristics in determining whether they should be housed with men or women.
“It’s surely going to become a bigger issue in the months to come because there are moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures that will be ending,” said Wexton. “So some homelessness will be on the rise, and allowing emergency shelters to discriminate against transgender people is cruel, thoughtless and reckless.”
The proposed rule change by HUD Secretary Ben Carson and the White House would modify the 2016 portion of the Equal Access rule, which requires all HUD-funded housing services to be provided without discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The new rule would allow America's shelters to operate as single-sex or sex-segregated facilities based on a policy of admittance if an individual’s gender identity does not match their biological sex. The proposed rule would also better accommodate the religious beliefs of shelter providers, meaning church-run shelters that don't accommodate transgender beliefs could possibly turn away people they associate in that community.
“This important update will empower shelter providers to set policies that align with their missions, like safeguarding victims of domestic violence or human trafficking,” said Secretary Carson. “Mission-focused shelter operators play a vital and compassionate role in communities across America. The Federal Government should empower them, not mandate a single approach that overrides local law and concerns. HUD also wants to encourage their participation in HUD programs. That’s exactly what we are doing with this rule change.”
The HUD rule change, published on July 24, initiated a public comment period that will last for 60 days.
Rep. Wexton has circulated a public comment letter in opposition to HUD’s proposed rule change, signed by more than 120 Representatives and 20 Senators, according to her office.
The rule has also come under scrutiny by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
“Shelters funded by taxpayers should be open to all — period. We should all tell the Trump administration that this proposed rule is not only wrong but deadly,” said LaLa Zannell, Trans Justice campaign manager for the American Civil Liberties Union.
All shelters serving a specific sex must provide people who they do not accommodate with information about other shelters in the area that can meet their needs, said HUD in its rule change announcement.
To learn more about HUD regulations and rules, click here.