Southern Legal Counsel (SLC) led a coalition of Florida-based organizations submitting a formal comment to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today on a proposed Equal Access rule change that seeks to rollback protections requiring that LGBTQ individuals have equal access to housing and homeless services.

SLC, One Orlando Alliance, Homeless Services Network of Central Florida, Equality Florida and Zebra Coalition call the proposed rule change “unnecessary and unlawful” and point out that it “violates the sex-discrimination principles set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in Bostock, is wholly unsupported by data, and does not align with HUD’s central mission of ensuring discrimination-free housing for all persons, including LGBTQ individuals.” 

“The Proposed Rule unnecessarily targets LGBTQ persons, and transgender individuals, in particular,” the organizations state, in spite of the fact that “HUD acknowledges it ‘is not aware of data suggesting that transgender individuals pose an inherent risk to biological women.’”

The rule change would allow sex discrimination against transgender and other individuals seeking shelter in single-sex facilities and allow those managing the facilities to make biological sex determinations by assessing “factors such as height, the presence (but not the absence) of facial hair, the presence of an Adam’s apple, and other physical characteristics” of the shelter seeker.”  The facility also would be able to request a birth certificate, other identification, or medical records.

A 2016 HUD Rule requires single-sex facilities to place individuals in accordance with their self-identified gender identity and bars inquiries into a person’s sex with respect to temporary or emergency shelters, adding those protections to a 2012 rule requiring that housing be made available regardless of gender identity and barring inquiries into gender identity and sexual orientation in various circumstances. 

The Homeless Services Network of Central Florida is the lead agency for the HUD Continuum of Care for the area including Osceola, Seminole, and Orange Counties, which since 2018, has offered annual training on LGBTQ+ cultural competency and legal protections, including the 2012 and 2016 HUD Equal Access Rules. The training includes a special focus on serving transgender individuals in accordance with their gender identity. The 2020 Central Florida training is scheduled for this week.