HUD Looking for Evidence That LGBT Housing Discrimination Is Real

By Susan Jones | November 17, 2011 | 11:04 AM EST

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan speaks in Denver on May 14, 2010. (AP File Photo/Ed Andrieski)

( - The Obama administration is actively seeking evidence that some landlords discriminate against people who don't "conform to gender stereotypes."

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said it is conducting the first-ever national study of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) housing discrimination to get a better understanding of the challenges facing the transgender community.

“This study is not only about getting a clearer picture of the problem, but it’s also providing the evidence that LGBT discrimination – including transgender discrimination—is real,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan blogged on Wednesday.

"And we can't wait to do something about it," he added.

In addition to pursing housing discrimination cases based on gender identity or expression, HUD also is trying to uncover discrimination that has gone unreported “for too long,” it says.

Donovan noted that last year, reports of LGBT housing discrimination increased 15 times over the previous year. "This doesn’t mean that there’s more discrimination – it means that people are now coming forward and speaking out," Donovan said.

Aside from seeking evidence of LGBT discrimination in housing, HUD said it is "fighting for transgender equality" on two other fronts.

First, HUD has proposed new regulations to ensure that HUD's programs are open to all, regardless of gender identity. One of the rules clarifies that the term "family" includes LGBT individuals and couples who may be eligible for public housing and voucher programs.

And HUD says it is working to educate the transgender community about what their rights are.

"For me, these efforts are about the same thing: civil rights," Donovan blogged.

Donovan noted that on Tuesday, he because the first sitting Cabinet secretary to speak before the National Center for Transgender Equality. He called it a "landmark moment."

"At the NCTE event, I was proud to represent an administration that has done remarkable work to advance equality for transgender people," Donovan blogged.

"Indeed, whether it’s the record number of transgender appointments President Obama has made to the federal government, the Office of Personnel Management’s announcement prohibiting gender identity discrimination for federal employment, or passing a hate crimes bill that represents the first-ever federal civil rights legislation to include the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” the Obama Administration has treated the fight for equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community not as an issue, but as a priority."

In September, the Obama White House welcomed a decision by the Social Security Administration to end the practice of matching a person's gender with other information sent to the agency by employers.

In the past, the Social Security Administration would send out "gender no-match" letters to employers in cases where the gender marked on an employee's W-2 did not match Social Security records.

NCTE complained that such gender-matching endangered transgender people and their jobs.