Study: Same-Sex Couples Face Bias When Seeking Info On Housing Rentals

A brand new study, the first of its kind, from the Department of Housing and Urban development found that same-sex couples aren’t getting quite a fair shake compared to heterosexual couples looking for info about rental housing advertised on the Internet. Which means that gay and lesbian couples aren’t hearing back as often to e-mail inquiries about renting an apartment. What’s more, gay couples face slightly more discrimination than lesbian couples.

If you’re thinking “Hmm, that doesn’t really sound fair,” you aren’t alone. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said this disparity in the findings shows a need “to continue our efforts to ensure that everyone is treated the same when it comes to finding a home to call their own, regardless of their sexual orientation,” according to the Associated Press.

In the study, HUD sent two emails to a landlord asking for info about a rental unit advertised online. One set of senders was a same-sex couple, and the other heterosexual.

About 11.6% of the time, heterosexual couples were favored in responses over gay male couples, and over lesbian couples 11.2% in the tests. The study’s author points out that it’s possible that not getting a response could be chalked up to other reasons besides discrimination, but that the overall trend isn’t a good one.

“Given how easy it is for providers to respond to emails, this finding is disturbing that they’re not getting a response,” she wrote.”This discrimination is found at the initial stage of the housing search process, which would mean that same-sex couples are being shut out of the housing process right away.”

Although there are 20 states (as well as Washington, D.C.) that have passed laws banning discrimination against people who identify within the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender set, there’s no federal law prohibiting that kind of treatment. But on that note, the study found slightly more adverse treatment for same-sex couples in states with more protective discrimination laws than in states without.

HUD recently issued new guidance for legislators that proposes to treat any discrimination based on “sex stereotyping” or “gender nonconformity” as sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.

Study finds housing bias against same-sex couples [Associated Press]