June 18, 2012

Celebrating equal access to housing during LGBT pride month

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Our guest blogger today is Samuel Pearson-Moore, HUD’s Office of General Counsel.

When I came to work at HUD in August 2011, I was pleased to learn about the ground-breaking research and studies HUD is doing to focus on the LGBT community. As President Obama wrote in his 2012 proclamation recognizing June as LGBT pride month: “This month, as we reflect on how far we have come and how far we have yet to go, let us recall that the progress we have made is built on the words and deeds of ordinary Americans. Let us pay tribute to those who came before us, and those who continue their work today; and let us rededicate ourselves to a task that is unending ‑‑ the pursuit of a Nation where all are equal, and all have the full and unfettered opportunity to pursue happiness and live openly and freely.”

As a member of GLOBE, the Department’s affinity group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) HUD employees and our supporters, it was my pleasure to help organize two HUD events honoring LGBT pride month.  On Tuesday, June 12th, our annual kick-off event, “Progress in Ensuring Decent Housing and a Suitable Living Environment for All,” took place at HUD headquarters.

The program began with the presentation of the inaugural GLOBE Pride Awards. The awardees included Peggy Mangum, one of the HUD GLOBE founders, the Office of Policy Development and Research, the Office of General Counsel, the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, and Secretary Shaun Donovan. These awards were inspired by HUD’s accomplishments for the benefit of LGBT people nationwide.

Our second HUD event to celebrate this month, co-hosted with the Office of Fair Housing, will be “What does the “T” in LGBT stand for? Transgender Cultural Competency.” The event will feature two great presenters, Mara Keisling, Executive Director, National Center for Transgender Equality, and Lisa Mottet, Transgender Civil Rights Project Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.  The presenters will provide definitions and discuss appropriate terminology for dealing with individuals in the transgender community.  The presenters will discuss discrimination faced by the transgender community and give examples of situations that HUD employees might encounter and how to handle them respectfully. If you miss either event, please look for them in the webcast archives.

Those programs for HUD employees join a host of external initiatives HUD is involved with to promote fairness across the country. For example:

  • Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research (PD&R) Raphael Bostic hosted the first-ever national LGBT Elder Housing Summit in December 2011. The event brought government officials, activists, and academics together to discuss a broad range of issues affecting LGBT elders, including housing, discrimination in long-term care facilities, and how to ensure LGBT elder housing efforts are inclusive.  In addition, PD&R will soon be releasing the first set of results in a national study of LGBT housing discrimination. Considering Assistant Secretary Bostic’s leadership in furthering LGBT equality, I was sorry to see him leave HUD and want to especially thank him for his dedication to the LGBT community.  
  • This year Secretary Donovan became the first-ever sitting Cabinet Secretary to address the National Center for Transgender Equality, where he discussed HUD’s work to advance equality for transgender people.  In addition, Secretary Donovan was the key note speaker at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s annual Creating Change conference where he announced HUD’s publication of a new regulation intended to ensure that HUD’s core housing programs are open to all eligible persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • The new regulation, “Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs – Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity” became effective March 5, 2012 and is an important tool in the fight against discrimination.  The Office of Fair Housing and the program offices have been rolling out guidance on the new rule to housing providers and HUD staff. For me, as a new attorney, having the opportunity to work on the historic new Equal Access rule that will protect the LGBT community and my family from housing discrimination was incredible.
  • Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity John Trasviña has been educating the public through HUD’s Live Free fair housing education and outreach campaign that targets print and social media like Facebook, with videos, podcasts, and ads that address discrimination due to gender stereotypes and let people know how to report it. The Office of Fair Housing has also created a dedicated website, phone number, and e-mail address to receive and address complaints under the new “Equal Access” rule.
  • Former Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development Mercedes Márquez worked to address LGBT youth homelessness, holding meetings and roundtable discussions with LGBT homeless youth service providers in Boston, Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Phoenix.  In March 2012, Márquez also addressed participants in Detroit at the first-ever White House LGBT Conference on Housing and Homelessness, hosted in partnership with the Ruth Ellis Center – the Midwest’s only organization, and one of four in the nation, solely dedicated to serving runaway, homeless and at-risk lesbian, gay, bi-attractional, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.

It is with those sentiments that I join HUD GLOBE in celebrating HUD’s accomplishments and continuing to push HUD to be at the forefront of fighting LGBT discrimination in housing and federal employment.

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