The Equality Act drew attention in the media during 2019 but since then has seemingly slipped out of focus, why is that? If you're not familiar with The Equality Act, it is a bill introduced into Congress by Rep. David Cicilline first in 2015, again in 2017 and yet again last year aimed at protecting those in the LGBT community. As those of us in the LGBTQ+ community are very aware of, the Federal Fair Housing Act does not give classify sexual orientation or gender identity as a protected class when it comes to your living situation. While there are a number of states (20 to be exact) that do offer protections within their own state boundaries, if you happen to live in a state with no protections, you can be denied housing just because you're gay, trans, lesbian, or anything that falls under "sexual orientation" or "gender identity." To me, that doesn't really sound very "fair" for a Fair Housing Act.
That's what The Equality Act wants to change. Not only for housing though, this act would alter The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and several employment laws in addition to the Fair Housing Act, to specifically include Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity as protected classes. However, each time it has been introduced into the House of Representatives and the Senate, the bill has died in committee and ultimately not passed. This time around, the bill passed through the House of Representatives, and was introduced to the Senate and nothing has been heard of since. The Equality Act isn't the only bill that has been passed by the House and not the Senate, over 300 bills are currently on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's desk waiting for review, but since he has sworn not to pass a single bill passed by the house since the midterm elections, it doesn't look promising.
What's disappointing, though, is how much this bill could directly impact home ownership in the LGBT community, which is currently only at 49% while on average, 64% of Americans own a home. Giving protections to those who need it would greatly increase the number of LGBT homeowners, which would in turn help the US economy as a whole. Imagine the number of LGBT American homeowners jumping from 49% to 64% alongside the national average? That's a lot of home sales. Obviously, that won't happen overnight, but a 5-10% jump could be seen within a handful of years, and that's still a lot of progress. Right now, 44% of LGBT renters are worried about how they will be received by their neighbors, and I have been one of them. When those of us in the LGBT community move to a new area, (and 67% of us live in different areas from where we grew up) we tend to rent first for a year or so to make sure we will be welcomed in our new neighborhoods. Renting makes it difficult to save up for down payments and closing costs, further inhibiting investing in our futures. If we can instead be sure that the government is on our side when it comes to where we live, we can cut away from that need to rent and instead directly consider home ownership.
While a single bill will not change all the problems the LGBT community faces, it will undeniably help. A signal of support from the government goes a long way, and might make the difference in a handful of undecided potential homeowners. Jeff Berger, the founder of the National Alliance of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals recently stated that "58% of our members believe the current White House administration's policies on LGBT issues are having a negative impact on the community's confidence to buy or sell a home." The passage of The Equality Act will absolutely have a strongly positive impact on the community, and that's what we need.
If you live here in New York, know that we are a state with full protections for those of us in the LGBT community. While I can't singlehandedly pass an entire bill through Congress, I can help you find your perfect home and treat you with the love and respect that you deserve through the process. Not sure about what it takes to buy a home? That's okay, send me a call/text/email/smoke signal and I will help you out.
Looking forward to bringing up those LGBT home ownership numbers in 2020 with your help.
Thanks for listening,
Licensed Real Estate Salesperson
J Philip Real Estate, LLC.