Marketplace News

LGBT and fair housing — A patchwork of unequal protection

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision ruled a fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples. However, the right of same sex-couples to rent or purchase a home is not a specific right protected under federal law.

The federal Fair Housing Act, bans discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, familial status, gender, and disability, but does not specifically include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression as prohibited bases.

Recently, voters in the city of Houston rejected the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance that would have banned housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

Against this backdrop, a recent study demonstrated that same-sex couples experience less favorable treatment than heterosexual couples in the online rental housing market.

LGBT graph


While the federal government bans housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity only in government operated housing, states and cities across of the country have had to enact specific laws that ban housing discrimination against LGBT persons because the federal Fair Housing Act does not grant specific protections to LGBT persons.

Only 21 states, which include California, have a law that bans housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Only 17 states ban housing discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression. This fact means LGBT persons are not protected against housing discrimination in many states and could face lawful discrimination from a landlord who refuses to rent an apartment to gay, lesbian, or transgender persons.

Currently, a same-sex couple can marry but can still be denied the opportunity to purchase or rent a home together because of the unequal protection of fair housing rights for LGBT persons under federal law.

However, California specifically bans housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. If you believe you have been a victim of housing discrimination, contact the city of San Diego’s Fair Housing Hotline, administered by the Fair Housing Center of the Legal Aid Society of San Diego Inc., at (844) 449-3500

The Legal Aid Society of San Diego Inc. offices are accessible to persons with disabilities.

For more information call The Legal Aid Society of San Diego, Inc. (844) 449-3500 TTY (877) 734-2929 or visit online at

As a Part of the National Fair Housing Month, LASSD invites you to join a series of fair housing trainings:

Encinitas City Hall — April 11; 505 Vulcan Ave.; Escondido City Hall — April 28; 201 N. Broadway;Oceanside City Hall — April 7;  300 N. Coast Hwy.; Vista City Hall —April 5; 200 Civic Center Dr.

Times 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For registration call (619) 471-2644 or email

Branden G. Butler is senior attorney, Fair Housing Center of the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, Inc. 


This article is sponsored content.

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