Housing Discrimination

Equality Virginia believes that all Virginians have the basic human right to live where they desire without regard to their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

What is the current status in Virginia?

In Virginia, there are no protections against discrimination for individuals on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The step to make this happen is to encourage our legislators to amend Virginia’s Fair Housing Law, Code of Virginia § 36-96.1 et seq., to include sexual orientation and gender identity as recognized classes for prohibited discrimination.  Virginia’s General Assembly should also authorize local governments to include sexual orientation and gender identity in local housing discrimination ordinances.Housing Discrimination

Background ►

It is a fundamental American value that all citizens should have the right to live where they desire, and the right to travel to establish a new home is one recognized as protected by the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The federal Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968) does not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and since Virginia’s Fair Housing Law also does not include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories, LGBT Virginians can face discrimination when trying to lease, buy or sell a residence.

Currently, 14 states and the District of Columbia have laws protecting individuals from housing discrimination based on sexual orientation.  These states are: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Only 4 states have explicit laws against housing discrimination based on gender identity.  These states are: California, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Rhode Island.  Courts and administrative agencies in 7 other states (Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York) and the District of Columbia have interpreted their statutes about sex or disability discrimination to prohibit certain types of discrimination against transgender people.

At the local government level, there are about 240 local jurisdictions that prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation.  About 60 of these local governments also prohibit housing discrimination based on gender identity and expression. 

 

Virginia Law

Virginia’s Fair Housing Law, Code of Virginia § 36-96.1 et seq., protects certain categories from discrimination with respect to residential housing.  However, § 36-96.1 currently does not include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories, so LGBT individuals in Virginia can be refused residential housing solely because of who they are.

Legislative History ►

Various bills have been introduced in the General Assembly to amend § 36-96.1 et seq. to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories; however, these bills have either been left in committee or have failed committee votes.  Most recently, during the 2009 General Assembly, Delegate James Scott was the patron for HB 2668 to amend Virginia’s Fair Housing Law to include sexual orientation; however, this bill was left in the Committee on General Laws at the end of the session.  Also, Delegate David Englin was the patron for HB 1625, which would have amended § 36-96.21 regarding local government powers under the Fair Housing Law to allow local governments to expand local ordinances beyond the classes already protected by the state Fair Housing Law.  However, this bill was also left in the Committee on General Laws at the end of the session.

Until the General Assembly acts to amend Virginia’s Fair Housing Law to include sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBT Virginians will not share with other Virginians the basic human right to choose an apartment or the home of their dreams free from discrimination.

 

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