The Trump administration is set to end an Obama-era provision that bars federally funded homeless shelters from turning away transgender people.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced on Wednesday that it will modify a 2016 amendment to the Equal Access Rule that forced shelters to provide access regardless of gender identity.
Once implemented, shelters will be allowed to discriminate against transgender people to “better accommodate religious beliefs of shelter providers”. They must, however, offer information to those affected “about other shelters in the area that can meet their needs.”
HUD said in a statement: “The new rule allows shelter providers that lawfully operate as single-sex or sex-segregated facilities to voluntarily establish a policy that will govern admissions determinations for situations when an individual’s gender identity does not match their biological sex.”
Before these protections went into effect, a 2016 study by the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the Equal Rights Center found that only 30 percent of shelters contacted were willing to appropriately house transgender people, and 1 in 5 outright refused to provide them with shelter.
“The Trump administration is targeting transgender people for discrimination. Giving shelters a license to discriminate against transgender people would be wrong at any time, but to do so in the midst of a pandemic and an economic crisis constitutes an act of wanton cruelty,” said Sharita Gruberg, senior director for the LGBTQ Research and Communications Project at CAP.
“This proposed rule risks the lives and safety of people who are transgender or gender nonconforming, whose ability to obtain lifesaving housing services will be up to the whims and potential biases of individual providers,” added Gruberg.
The latest move follows last month’s decision by the US Department of Health and Human Services to reverse another Obama-era rule that ensured that the Affordable Care Act protected transgender people from being denied care in “any health program or activity” that receives federal financial assistance.
The Human Rights Campaign has since filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Trump administration on behalf of two transgender women of colour “who have experienced a lifetime of severe and pervasive discrimination from health care providers.” The lawsuit challenges the removal of the anti-discrimination protections in the Affordable Care Act.
The Trump administration has repeatedly attempted to restrict the definition of sex in anti-discrimination laws and policies from including transgender identities. It has further barred transgender personnel from serving in the military, also a reversal of an earlier Obama-era policy.