US govt push for homeless shelters to discriminate against trans folks

US advocates have raised concerns over changes to federally-funded homeless shelters, which would allow organisations to discriminate against transgender people seeking support.

Vox have highlighted a memo released earlier this month, which proposes changes to the Equal Access Rule, currently requiring all Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funded services to be provided without discrimination based on sexuality or gender.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson says the update is designed to “empower shelters to set policies that align with their missions.”

“Mission-focused shelter operators play a vital and compassionate role in communities across America. The Federal Government should empower them, not mandate a single approach that overrides local law and concerns. HUD also wants to encourage their participation in HUD programs. That’s exactly what we are doing with this rule change,” Secretary Carson said.

The changes would allow funded organisations who operate single-gender facilities to adopt a policy which could see shelters turning trans and gender diverse folks away on be basis of assigned sex at birth or government documentation. Advocates are concerned this could also see organisations determining people’s gender identity based on physical characteristics.

Democratic Representatives Maxine Waters and Jennifer Wexton, cited the precedent of Bostock v. Clayton Country which ruled discrimination against trans folks is considered sex discrimination, in a letter to the HUD. Carson’s response, as reported by Vox, dismissed the concerns and argued that temporary shelters are not legally considered as housing.

Virginia Representative Jennifer Wexton did not accept Carson’s response, taking the Secretary to task over his history of transphobic speech and politics.

“Secretary Carson’s insistence on pressing forward with this discriminatory policy – despite the Bostock ruling and clear consensus among experts and service providers opposed to this rule change – betrays a disturbing determination to target and endanger trans Americans,” Rep. Wexton told Vox.

“The Secretary has made one bad faith argument after another to try and push this anti-trans rule forward, and the weak justifications he makes in this letter are no different.”

US queer homeless support organisation True Colors United shared their criticism of Secretary Carson’s announcement.

“They are trying to put forward this narrative in which transgender people are protected from discrimination, but in fact, when you read the proposal itself, it does the exact opposite,” Spokesperson Dylan Waguespack said.

“It creates unsafe conditions and unsafe barriers to housing and services for trans people in the midst of a global pandemic.”

OIP Staff

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