A proposed rule change from the department of housing and urban development would allow federally-funded homeless shelters to discriminate against transgender people based on their own religious beliefs and a variety of other factors.
The proposal, released on Wednesday, would amend the 2012 Equal Access Rule which ensured that shelters do not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The proposal would allow shelters to “establish a policy” whereby they could determine someone’s gender identity by their official government documents. They could also make these changes based on their own “religious beliefs,” according to the rule change.
The National Center for Transgender Equality pointed out that housing secretary Ben Carson told a House committee yesterday that he had no plans to revise the Equal Access rule.
“I’m not going to say what we will do in the future about anything,” he said, according to NCTE. “I’m not currently anticipating changing the rule.”
In a tweet, the NCTE said Ben Carson “lied” to the House about the rule change. “This had to be in the works for a long time,” the organization said.
NCTE executive director Mara Keisling called the move “a heartless attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our society” in a statement.
“The programs impacted by this rule are life-saving for transgender people, particularly youth rejected by their families, and a lack of stable housing fuels the violence and abuse that takes the lives of many transgender people of color across the country,” she said. “Secretary Carson’s actions are contrary to the mission of his Department and yet another example of tragic cruelty of this administration.”
In its statement, the NCTE also pointed out that transgender people face discrimination not only in the shelter system, but also in housing, which makes transgender people more likely to become homeless and rely on shelters. The organization’s U.S. Transgender Survey showed that one in four trans adults experience housing bias and one in eight Black trans women were denied a home in the last year because of their trans identity. One in three trans people are homeless in their lifetime and one in eight were homeless in the last year. Also, seven in ten trans people who went to a homeless shelter in the previous year were either kicked out for being trans, physically or sexually assaulted, or mistreated because of their gender identity.
The House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, a federal bill that would provide protections against discrimination in housing, employment and all federally funded programs, on Friday. Despite having 46 cosponsors, the bill may not even reach the Senate. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not bring it up for a vote. Earlier in May, administration officials indicated that Trump would come out against the Equality Act.
While the Trump administration is changing the rules purportedly in the names of making shelters safe, it’s actually transgender people, especially transgender women, who are most in need of this system and most in need of being kept safe.