Appleton has become the third city in Wisconsin to adopt rules against housing discrimination based on gender identity.
Seventeen states and 160 cities, including Madison and Milwaukee, prohibit housing discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Transgender Law and Policy Institute.
“Why now? There aren’t state and federal protections for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, so it’s up to cities,” said Kathy Flores, Appleton’s diversity coordinator. “People are assigned female or male at birth, and often that’s the identity that stays, but that’s not true for everybody. Gender is not that black or white.”
Landlords who deny rentals to transgender individuals face a penalty of up to $10,000 under Appleton’s new ordinance.
Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to adopt anti-discrimination protections for gay residents in 1982. But transgender residents still experience discrimination while looking for housing statewide, said Katie Belanger, president of Fair Wisconsin, a state advocacy group for LGBT issues.
Belanger said that transgender “people have twice the rate of homelessness, twice the rate of unemployment, and a vast majority of trans people have faced discrimination in every aspect of their lives: employment, housing and in public spaces.”
New protections for gender identity faced no resistance in Appleton, which has a population of 73,000.