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Fair Housing for LGBT People: Local Initiative with a National Impact

davecamposAs marriage equality moves from state to state, we can now focus our attention on fighting for LGBT rights in other areas, including access to housing. As a gay man, I am outraged that members of our community continue to face prejudice and sometimes outright hostility from landlords, real estate agents and lenders when looking for housing in many parts of this country because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

One in five transgender people have been refused housing in the U.S., and more than one in ten have been evicted because of their gender identity. The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and familial status, but does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. We are lucky that San Francisco and California have strong housing laws, but this is sadly not the norm in much of the country. In fact, only 21 states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and a meager 16 states prohibit discrimination against transgender people.

In order to address this issue, I recently passed first-of-its kind legislation that uses a simple method to encourage developers and building owners to implement policies that prohibit LGBT housing discrimination. The ordinance requires developers and owners with out-of-state properties who are applying to build 10 units or more in San Francisco to tell our Planning Department whether they have a policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in all the states in which they operate. If they do have one, they will be asked to provide a copy of that policy in their application. The Human Rights Commission will then compile this information and provide it to the Board of Supervisors annually.

This legislation will tell us whether developers wanting to build in San Francisco are protecting LGBT rights in places where local laws do not. It will also serve to protect LGBT San Franciscans who are displaced in this housing crisis. We want to do everything possible to ensure that they do not experience an erosion of their equal rights just because they were forced to leave the City.

By asking this simple question—do you have a policy prohibiting LGBT discrimination—we are encouraging housing developers who want to build here to develop fair housing policies that will benefit LGBT people across the country. And as these policies become normalized, this will help us win LGBT housing rights at the national level.

As we’ve seen on everything from domestic partnerships to the rainbow flag, as goes San Francisco, so goes the rest of the country.

David Campos is a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors representing District 9. This column for the “SF Bay Times” was inspired by Harvey Milk’s efforts to build a coalition of what Milk termed “us’es,” meaning communities that value diversity and attempt to leave no one behind. For more information about Supervisor Campos and his work, please visit http://www.sfbos.org/index.aspx?page=2117