In a decision which will likely expand the scope of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) by analogy, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded earlier today that a 1960’s era civil rights statute protects gay and transgender workers. By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination “because of sex,” includes protection for gay and transgender employees. Our FHA, which is Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act, was patterned after the employment law and typically courts construe the protections in both statutes similarly.
As written here many times, sex was added as an additional protected class to the FHA back in 1974. Accordingly, I suspect over time courts will now read the federal anti-housing discrimination law to include LGBTQ residents and applicants. To be sure, while the FHA has seven protected classes (race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability) many states (as well as cities and counties) have their own housing discrimination laws which include additional protected classes (some of which already include LGBTQ individuals). But this decision – for now in the employment context but which I expect will expand to including housing – was the first to mandate nationwide protection for LGBTQ employees.
To be clear, I do not expect this change in the FHA to take place overnight. It will take a little time for a judge to expand the scope of the FHA when faced with a court challenge. But our professional apartment management industry should take a look at our anti-discrimination policies to ensure we do not unintentionally discriminate in housing against those individuals now covered by the federal anti-discrimination employment laws.
Just A Thought.