Tag Archives: anti-discrimination

GOP governor of Illinois pledges to enforce anti-discrimination laws during first meeting with gay activists

Putting election-year hostilities behind them, gay rights advocates said they emerged from a meeting with Gov. Bruce Rauner with a pledge the Republican will strictly enforce anti-discrimination laws and hope that he’ll also support their top legislative priority: a ban on gay conversion therapy for minors.

Representatives of Equality Illinois and other advocacy groups met with Rauner March 20 for the first time since he took office in January.

Rauner said he’ll issue a directive that state agencies strictly enforce anti-discrimination laws. He has directed the Department of Human Rights to conduct a survey of Illinois residents to identify patterns of discrimination and provide recommendations to his office by Jan. 31. Rauner also said he’ll appoint a liaison from his office to the gay and lesbian community.

Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov said the roughly 30-minute meeting was a positive first step. A spokesman for Rauner confirmed details of the meeting but declined to comment further.

Gay rights activists supported Rauner’s rival, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, during the campaign. They campaigned actively against the GOP businessman, calling him “an enemy of equality” and hanging a huge anti-Rauner banner along the route where thousands of people attended Chicago’s gay pride parade.

A major issue was Rauner’s position on gay marriage. Quinn signed legislation making same-sex marriage legal in Illinois, and called it one of his proudest accomplishments. Rauner declined to say whether he personally supported it. And while he said he had no plans to overturn the law if elected, he also said that if the same-sex legislation had landed on his desk as governor he would have vetoed it because voters should have decided the issue.

Cherkasov said the campaign was not a focus of the March 20 meeting.

“I think on both sides we understand political campaigns can be difficult,” he said. “It wasn’t about looking back. This meeting was about moving forward.”

Cherkasov said they discussed the proposed gay conversion therapy ban, and that Rauner asked “thoughtful” questions about it but did not indicate whether he would support it. Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said the governor hasn’t yet taken a position on the bill.

The legislation would prohibit therapists from trying to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a person under 18. Mental health providers who do so would face discipline from their licensing board.

Supporters, including the Illinois Psychiatric Society and the Illinois Mental Health Counselors Association, say conversion therapy has been discredited and can harm young people. Opponents say therapists could be punished unfairly and that the ban would strip parents of their rights to decide what kind of treatment their children receive.

California, New Jersey and Washington D.C. have approved bans, and similar measures are pending in several other states. In Oklahoma, legislation has advanced to protect the practice.

Cherkasov noted that Gov. Chris Christie — a Republican, like Rauner — signed New Jersey’s ban into law.

Wal-Mart criticizes so-called ‘conscience protection’ measure

Wal-Mart this week criticized a measure in the retail giant’s home state that opponents say sanctions discrimination against gays and lesbians, while Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson also expressed concerns about the legislation.

The proposal to prohibit state and local governments from imposing a “substantial burden” on someone’s religious beliefs faced new resistance a day after Arkansas became the second state to bar cities and counties from expanding anti-discrimination protections to gays and lesbians.

Bentonville-based Wal-Mart’s criticism of the pending legislation was nearly identical to concerns it raised about the new law regarding local ordinances. The world’s largest retailer includes sexual orientation and gender identity in its non-discrimination policy.

“While HB1228 will not change how we treat our associates and operate our business, we feel this legislation is also counter to our core basic belief of respect for the individual and sends the wrong message about Arkansas, as well as the diverse environment which exists in the state,” Wal-Mart spokesman Lorenzo Lopez said in a statement.

Hutchinson, a Republican, said he had reservations the House-backed measure, but stopped short of saying whether he opposed it. Hutchinson said he has questions about how the measure would be applied.

“I can see a great deal of litigation coming out of this, and so we want to have a better understanding of it,” Hutchinson told reporters.

The measure would ban any local or state laws or regulations that substantially burden religious beliefs unless a “compelling governmental interest” is proven. The bill, if enacted, would strengthen any case of a person suing the government if that person could prove their religious beliefs were infringed upon.

The legislation is patterned after the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states have similar laws and 10 states are currently considering them. Hutchinson said he understands the desire to protect religious freedom, but said he needed more information on the bill’s impact.

“Part of it is, if as a lawyer I can’t get a good grasp of it one time through, then it makes me wonder how this is going to be interpreted by the courts,” Hutchinson said. “It’s just the unintended consequences of legislation is what you’ve got to look at very carefully.”

Hutchinson’s comments came a day after he allowed legislation to become law that bans local governments from expanding anti-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation or gender identity. Opponents of the measure had urged Hutchinson to veto it after he said he was concerned about it infringing on local control.

Both bills were pushed in response to a Fayetteville ordinance that barred discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The city’s voters repealed the ordinance in December.

Gay rights groups have shifted their attention to the “conscience protection” measure, calling it another thinly veiled attempt to endorse bias against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“HB1228 is equally disturbing and allows any person to claim religious belief as their grounds for discriminatory acts,” Kendra Johnson, state director for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement issued this week. “Simply put, state senators should erase it from the legislative agenda.”

The measure was expected to go before a Senate panel on Wednesday. Its sponsor said he planned to talk with Hutchinson about his concerns.

“I know the bill real well and I know Asa, where he stands on the issue,” Republican Rep. Bob Ballinger of Hindsville said. “I think in the end he’ll side with protecting people’s religious freedom.”

Chile’s president signs anti-discrimination law

Chile’s president signed an anti-discrimination law this week that lawmakers passed after a gay man was fatally beaten by attackers who carved swastikas into his body.

The law was approved in May after being stuck in Congress for seven years.

President Sebastian Pinera had urged lawmakers to speed its approval after the slaying of Daniel Zamudio in March set off a national debate about hate crimes in Chile.

Zamudio was found beaten and mutilated in a city park, with swastikas carved into his body. The U.N. human rights office had urged Chile to pass legislation against hate crimes and discrimination after the killing. Many people in Chile refer to the new measure, which enables people to file anti-discrimination lawsuits and adds hate-crime sentences for violent crimes, as the Zamudio law.

“Without a doubt, Daniel’s death was painful but it was not in vain,” Pinera said at a recent press conference joined by Zamudio’s parents.

“His passing not only unified wills to finally approve this anti-discrimination law but it also helped us examine our conscience and ask ourselves: have we ever discriminated someone? … After his death we’ll think twice, thrice or four times before we fall prey to that behavior.”

Four suspects, some with criminal records for attacks on gays, have been jailed in Zamudio’s killing. Prosecutors are seeking murder charges.

Chile remains among the most socially conservative countries in Latin America. It legalized divorce in 2004, becoming one of the last nations in the world to grant married couples that right.

Some Protestant churches had opposed the anti-discrimination law, saying it could be a first step toward gay marriage, which Chile forbids.

The Roman Catholic Church, which retains a strong influence over Chilean society, also expressed some concerns about the law, but gay and human rights activists hailed the measure as a step toward equality.

“This law is a giant leap toward creating tools that can prevent and punish discrimination,” Gay Liberation and Integration Movement President Rolando Jimenez told the Associated Press. “There’s still a lot to be done and we need the institutions to enforce it.”

Lawmakers are also preparing to debate a civil union law proposed by Pinera that would grant inheritance and other rights to same-sex couples.

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Nebraska gov urges citizen vote on civil rights laws

Nebraska’s governor says city ordinances barring discrimination against gay and transgender people should be put to public votes.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports that Gov. Dave Heineman, at a news conference in Lincoln, cited a recent opinion from the state attorney general’s office. It said cities would have to amend their charters to offer protections to groups not covered by state law.

The opinion issued May 4 said voters could approve changes to city charters to extend protections to groups not covered by state law, but local governments lack the authority. Neither city charter was amended.

Opinions issued by the office lack the force of law but guide legislators and officials statewide and often are cited in disputes over hotly debated issues.

Nebraska’s anti-discrimination laws and federal regulations don’t extend protection to gay and transgender people.

Omaha narrowly adopted an ordinance in March that said employers, employment agencies, job training programs, labor groups, public accommodations and businesses that contract with the city are barred from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. It provides exemptions for religious organizations.

Omaha city attorney Paul Kratz has said the city’s legal team disagrees with the attorney general office’s opinion, and he doesn’t think it will have any effect on the new ordinance.

Backers argued that the proposal would make Omaha a more welcoming city to a diverse workforce. Opponents countered that the proposals would add an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and open up businesses to lawsuits.

Lincoln’s ordinance was approved on May 14 but won’t go into effect for 15 days.

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Tennessee mayor introduces gay rights ordinance

The mayor of Knoxville, Tenn., is introducing a measure to ban bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity in city employment.

The ordinance proposed by Mayor Madeline Rogero will get its first reading during a city council meeting April 17 at the Knoxville City County Building.

The Tennessee Equality Project announced Rogero’s decision early April 11, noting that TEP’s PAC studied candidates for mayor last fall and endorsed Rogero.

“Rogero indicated she would support such an ordinance, which won her our endorsement,” TEP said. “Now she is honoring her promise and leading the effort to advance the measure.”

In March, TEP and the Green Party held training workshops on the impact of the proposed measure with leaders of both groups, as well as representatives from city hall, PFLAG, East TN Gay-Straight Alliance and Knoxville Pridefest.

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Anti-discrimination law passes in Chile

Chile’s Congress passed an anti-discrimination law this week following the killing of a gay man whose attackers beat him and carved swastikas into his body.

The House of Deputies approved the law in a close 58-56 vote, seven years after it was first proposed. The Senate passed the law in November. Some passages remain to be finalized in a commission of senators and House lawmakers.

President Sebastian Pinera had urged lawmakers to accelerate approval of the law after 24-year-old Daniel Zamudio died March 27. Zamudio’s death came more than three weeks after he was attacked, and his case set off a national debate about hate crimes in Chile.

Four suspects have been jailed, some of whom already have criminal records for attacks on gays. Prosecutors have asked for murder charges in the case.

Zamudio, a clothing store salesman, was attacked in a park in Santiago on March 3. The suspects allegedly beat him for an hour, burning him with cigarettes and carving Nazi symbols into his body.

The leader of Chile’s Gay Liberation and Integration Movement, Rolando Jimenez, has said the suspects should be charged with torture as well.

After Zamudio died last week, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights called for Chile to pass new laws against hate crimes and discrimination.

Some Protestant churches had opposed the anti-discrimination law, saying it could be a first step toward gay marriage, which Chile forbids and which is not explicitly included in the measure. The Roman Catholic Church also expressed some concerns about the law.

The law describes as illegal discrimination “any distinction, exclusion or restriction that lacks reasonable justification, committed by agents of the state or individuals, and that causes the deprivation, disturbance or threatens the legitimate exercise of fundamental rights.”

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Neo-Nazi killing spurs hate crime debate in Chile

Prosecutors in Chile asked for murder charges on March 28 in the death of a young gay man whose attackers brutally beat him and carved swastikas into his body.

Daniel Zamudio died on March 27, 25 days after he was attacked. The case has prompted a national debate in Chile over hate crimes, with President Sebastian Pinera saying from Asia that his government won’t rest until a proposed anti-discrimination law is passed.

Four suspects have been jailed on attempted murder charges, some of whom already have criminal records for attacks on gays.

Hours after Zamudio’s death, prosecutor Ernesto Vazquez formally requested that the charges be changed to premeditated murder, carrying maximum life sentences if convicted. He said the attack was clearly motivated by homophobia.

Gay activists weren’t satisfied. The leader of Chile’s Gay Liberation and Integration Movement, Rolando Jimenez, said the suspects should be charged with torture as well.

Zamudio, a clothing store salesman, was attacked in a park in Santiago on March 3. The suspects allegedly beat him for an hour, burning him with cigarettes and carving Nazi symbols into his body.

The second of four brothers, he had hoped to study theater, his brother Diego said. “He was very loving, an excellent person and that’s why it’s so hard to believe that they attacked him with such hate,” he told reporters.

Hundreds of people had been holding vigil outside the hospital where Zamudio lay brain-dead, building a shrine on the sidewalk. Many whistled and booed when Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter, the acting president while Sebastian Pinera is traveling in Asia, arrived to share condolences March 27. The commotion ended only when Zamudio’s father appealed for them to maintain respect.

“We are going to work tirelessly in our Congress to pass our anti-discrimination law as quickly as possible,” Hinzpeter said to reporters outside the hospital after visiting the family.

An ample Senate majority passed the law in November, but seven years after it was first proposed, it has yet to come to a vote in the lower house. Lobbyists for evangelical churches said it would be a first step toward gay marriage, which Chile forbids and which is not explicitly included in the measure.

It would describe as illegal discrimination “any distinction, exclusion or restriction that lacks reasonable justification, committed by agents of the state or individuals, and that causes the deprivation, disturbance or threatens the legitimate exercise of fundamental rights established by the constitution or in international human rights treaties ratified by Chile.”

Attorney Gabriel Zaliasnik told the Cooperativa radio station March 28 that if the law had been passed, the attack on Zamudio might have been avoided.

Pinera tweeted from South Korea that the “brutal and cowardly attack of Daniel Zamudio wounds not only his family but all people of good will.”

“His death will not remain unpunished, and reinforces the complete commitment of the government against all arbitrary discrimination and for a more tolerant country.”

The jailed suspects are Raul Alfonso Lopez, 25; Alejandro Axel Angulo Tapia, 26; Patricio Ahumada Garay, 25; and Fabian Mora Mora, 19. They remain in preventive detention after blaming others in the group for the attack.

Lopez allegedly told police that he saw Angulo and Ahumada carve three swastikas into Zamudio with a broken pisco sour bottle. Ahumada’s public defender, Nestor Perez, said his client wasn’t involved in the attack and isn’t a neo-Nazi.

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Omaha adopts anti-discrimination ordinance

The Omaha, Neb., City Council on March 13 approved an ordinance to ban bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The proposal, put forward by Councilman Ben Gray, would apply to employers, employment agencies, job training programs, labor groups, public accommodations and businesses that contract with the city. It also would provide exemptions for religious organizations.

A similar proposal failed to pass in October 2010 on a 3-3 vote, but passed this last week on a 4-3 vote.

Nebraska’s anti-discrimination laws and federal regulations don’t extend protection LGBT people.

Backers argued the proposal would make Omaha a more welcoming city to a diverse workforce. Opponents countered that the proposals would add an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and open up businesses to lawsuits.

Debate of the proposal caused consternation well beyond Omaha’s city limits.

Testimony from Nebraska Cornhuskers assistant football coach Ron Brown, who opposed the measure as a Christian, drew a rebuke from University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman. Perlman said Brown should have made clear his views were his own and not the university’s. Brown apologized for giving the city council the university’s football stadium address as his personal address.

Council members discussed the ordinance for more than an hour before passing the measure, which survived a motion by Councilman Franklin Thompson to amend it to protect only against discrimination based on sexual orientation, dropping the proposal’s reference to protection based on gender identity.

Thompson, who abstained from voting on the proposal in 2010 to break the 3-3 tie, voted against the measure March 13, as did Council members Tom Mulligan and Jean Stothert.

Thompson drew both laughter and some gasps as he grappled out loud with his decision. At one point, he said he had determined from his own observations that of every 10 gay, lesbian or transgendered people, “I believe that four are born that way, and six are choosing.” Thompson, who is black, also compared the issue of protections for LGBT people to race relations and the civil rights movement, saying, “We didn’t get all our rights in 17 months. It was a process.”

Voting for the measure were Gray, Pete Festersen, Chris Jerram and Garry Gernandt, who had voted against the measure in 2010.

Mayor Jim Suttle said in a statement that he would sign the ordinance into law.

“Omaha is a city that welcomes diversity, embraces fresh ideas and is open for business to everyone,” Suttle said. “Allowing discrimination in our city is wrong-for our citizens and our businesses.”

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Utah lawmakers consider anti-discrimination bill

For the fourth consecutive year, a Utah lawmaker has proposed a statewide law prohibiting discrimination because of a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or political views.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake City, would protect gay, lesbian and transgendered people from losing a job or housing. Senate Bill 51 would also allow people to freely participate in political activities outside of their work without fear of retribution.

A committee hearing on the bill will likely happen early this next week. McAdams said even if the bill fails to get out of committee, it is still a success after discussion of the bill was stymied by Republicans last year.

This year, however, the proposal has some notable backers. So far, 14 cities and counties have passed local nondiscrimination ordinances, and the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, which represents businesses statewide, has endorsed the bill.

“I’d love to see the bill pass (the Legislature), and the case has certainly been made,” McAdams said. “But there is still a lot of concern from people up here. It will take more education.”

For their part, Republican lawmakers oppose the bill because they would prefer cities and counties pass their own laws. There is also a concern that the law would potentially lead to gay marriage becoming legal.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, said during a forum last week the law would be difficult for business owners because they may not know if an employee was gay without asking. Additionally, he was concerned the law gave unfair protections to gay people.

“In my mind, you are picking a special activity and creating a special class of people,” Jenkins said.

Source: AP

New anti-discrimination housing regs become official

U.S. Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan announced new anti-discrimination regulations during an addressing at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change conference.

Thousands of activists attended the annual event, held this year in Baltimore.

On Jan. 28, Donovan delivered a speech in which he announced the implementation of draft anti-discrimination regulations announced a year ago.

The changes include:

• Language that ensures same-sex couples and their children are recognized as families covered by federal Housing and Urban Development programs, including affordable housing assistance.

• Prohibiting owners and operators of HUD-assisted housing, or housing whose financing is insured by HUD, from inquiring about the sexual orientation or gender identity of an applicant or basing a decision on their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

• Prohibiting consideration of factors other than creditworthiness, including sexual orientation and gender identity, in the awarding of mortgage loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

“The new regulations from HUD will help protect LGBT people and our families in one of the most fundamental aspects of life – finding and keeping a home,” said Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign. “This common sense action will help some of the most vulnerable people in our community in trying to make homes for themselves and their families.”

For the record…

The following is a transcript – provided by HUD – of Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan’s address at Creating Change on Jan. 28 at the Hilton Baltimore in Baltimore:

Thank you, Rea, for that very kind introduction.

You remind each of us here today what a privilege it is to be partners in the fight for equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

And it’s an honor to be here – as the first sitting Cabinet Secretary in history to address the Task Force – and to speak at Creating Change.

Let me also thank the Board and Staff of the Task Force for inviting me and many of my colleagues from across the Obama Administration to participate in this conference.

Thanks to your leadership in convening the New Beginning Initiative, together we have made extraordinary progress, creating changes throughout the Administration that have improved the day to day lives of LGBT people across the country.

A Seat at the Table

The progress we have made together reminds me that President Obama views the fight for LGBT equality not as an issue – but as a priority.

You can see this commitment in the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

In his first State of the Union, the President called for its repeal. And earlier this week, at the President’s third, an active duty Air Force colonel who is openly lesbian sat as a guest in the First Lady’s box without fear of being discharged for who she is or who she loves.

You can also see that commitment in a record number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender appointments to positions throughout the Administration.

You can see it in a Presidential Memorandum on Hospital Visitation, which addressed the rights of patients in hospitals that receive Medicare or Medicaid funds—just about every hospital—to designate visitors regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to take the necessary steps to improve the health and well-being of LGBT people and their families.

You can see it in the efforts we’ve undertaken on behalf of the transgender community, from the State Department’s efforts to ensure greater dignity and privacy for transgender passport applicants to the Office of Personnel Management’s announcement that gender identity is a prohibited basis of discrimination in federal employment to the VA’s directive to ensure respectful and non-discriminatory care for transgender veterans – who deserve our deepest gratitude and our commitment to their wellbeing.

And that commitment to the LGBT community doesn’t stop at our borders. You can also see it in a Presidential Memorandum promoting the protection of the human rights of LGBT individuals abroad – and in Secretary of State Clinton’s bold and forceful declaration that gay rights are human rights, and that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Perhaps clearest of all, you can see the President’s commitment in the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention law.

I’m proud to work for the President who signed the first federal civil rights legislation that includes the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” into law.

A Place to Call Home – HUD Accomplishments

I’m here this afternoon, because our President and his Administration believe the LGBT community deserves a place at the table – and also a place to call home.

Each of us here knows that rights most folks take for granted are routinely violated against LGBT people.

That’s why I’m proud to stand before you this afternoon and say HUD has been a leader in the fight—your fight and my fight—for equality.

Over the last three years, we have worked to ensure that our housing programs are open.

Not to some.

Not to most.

But open to all.

Now, some outside this room might ask: why is that even necessary?

Well, let me tell you about Mitch and Michelle DeShane.

Two years ago Michelle wanted to add her partner Mitch, a transgender man, to the housing voucher she receives to find affordable housing.

The local housing authority denied her request. They told her that the couple did not meet its definition of “family.”

Then, the DeShanes were referred to a neighboring housing authority – because, as they were apparently told, and I quote, that housing authority, “accepts everyone – even Martians.”

That’s just wrong. No one should be subject to that kind of treatment or denied access to housing assistance because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

And as the Injustice at Every Turn report you put out last year with the National Center for Transgender Equality, these challenges are all too common.

That report found not only that a staggering 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT – but that half of them report experiencing homelessness as a result of their gender identity or expression. Even more troubling, the majority report harassment, difficulty, or even sexual assault when trying to access homeless shelters.

Allowing this mistreatment to happen is not only wrong – it’s also not who we are as Americans.

That’s why, for the first time at our annual National Fair Housing Policy Conference, HUD hosted a session on housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

It’s why, in December, HUD and HHS held the first-ever LGBT elder housing summit, bringing together advocates and practitioners from across the country to highlight existing barriers and explore future opportunities to support housing and long-term care designed for seniors in the LGBT community.

Perhaps most important of all, it’s why we are conducting the first-ever national study of LGBT housing discrimination – a historic and important study we designed based on feedback from town halls conducted in communities across the country.

Led by HUD Assistant Secretary Raphael Bostic, this study is partly about getting a clearer picture of the problem.

But it’s also about making the case – the case that LGBT discrimination is real and that we need to do something about it.

That’s why we’ve been reviewing our existing authority to address housing discrimination related to the LGBT community.

For instance, under the Fair Housing Act prohibition of sex discrimination, we have authority to pursue cases alleging housing discrimination because a person’s identity or expression didn’t conform with gender stereotypes.

And we’ve also provided HUD staff with guidance instructing them to carefully assess whether any LGBT-based housing discrimination complaints could be pursued through the Fair Housing Act or state or local discrimination laws – and launched a webpage on LGBT housing discrimination.

We know that these efforts are already having an impact.

With these resources we are helping uncover discrimination that had gone unreported for far too long and raising awareness that reporting such discrimination can make a difference. As a result, not only have reports of LGBT housing discrimination increased – so have the number of complaints we’ve been able to move forward on.

We’ve also required grant applicants to comply with state and local anti-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation or gender discrimination – covering 20 states that more than four-in-ten Americans call home.

Over $3 billion in federal funding is available in these grants – and we want to make sure as many dollars as possible are protecting the rights of every American.

Lastly, just as we’re making sure we understand the needs of LGBT Americans, we’re also making sure that LGBT Americans understand their rights as well.

With HUD’s Live Free fair housing education and outreach campaign, we’ve been targeting print and social media like Facebook, with videos, podcasts, and ads that address discrimination and let people know how to report it.

These are the first steps we’ve taken to ensure that all Americans—regardless of age, income, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity—have access to choice and opportunity.

And I tell you today:

They aren’t the last.

Creating Change

Today, I am proud to announce a new Equal Access to Housing Rule that says clearly and unequivocally that LGBT individuals and couples have the right to live where they choose.

This is an idea whose time has come.

And before I go into the rule itself, I want to acknowledge Assistant Secretary John Trasvina and the rest of the HUD team for their extraordinary work to get it across the finish line, as well as the Task Force and other LGBT organizations for the feedback you provided when we solicited comment on the proposed rule.

When we first proposed this rule, we included a provision that prohibited owners and operators of HUD housing from inquiring whether someone is LGBT.

But as you made very clear, people don’t have to inquire to discriminate against them – that often, people face discrimination based on their appearance or mannerisms.

And so, first and foremost, this rule includes a new equal access provision that prohibits owners and operators of HUD-funded housing, or housing whose financing we insure, from inquiring about an applicant’s sexual orientation or gender identity or denying housing on that basis.

If you are denying HUD housing to people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity—actual or perceived—you’re discriminating, you’re breaking the law – and you will be held accountable.

That’s what equal access means – and that’s what this rule is going to do.

Secondly, this rule makes clear that LGBT families, like the DeShanes, are eligible for HUD’s public housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs that collectively serve 5.5 million people.

Third, the rule also makes clear that sexual orientation and gender identity should not and cannot be part of any lending decision when it comes to getting a mortgage insured by the FHA – part of HUD.

I’m proud to announce that this rule will be published as final in the Federal Register next week and go into effect 30 days later.

Now, I’m as excited about this rule as everyone here. But let’s be clear:

Publishing this rule next week won’t be the end of the process – but in many ways, just the beginning.

Enacting a rule is not enough. Training and education are essential to ensuring rules are followed in communities across the country.

And so, HUD and its fair housing partners will work to provide guidance and training on the substance of this rule – and the impact it will have for both how we administer HUD programs and also how we enforce our nation’s fair housing laws more broadly.

And we look forward to working with you on that education effort.

Reclaiming Our Values

For me, for my colleagues here today, and for President Obama, everything I have described is fundamentally about one goal which I’m sure will be familiar to all of you:

Creating change.

Change like the President acknowledging young black gay men’s struggles, and telling these men that their lives matter.

Change like a commitment to double down on our efforts to ensure the promise that we can live in an AIDS free generation.

Or when the President acts to protect the visitation rights of gay and lesbian patients.

Because no one should be separated from the person they love – not in sickness and not in health.

Change is a returning sailor sharing a traditional first kiss with her girlfriend.

An Air Force officer having her partner at her side when she gets promoted.

And a Marine introducing his boyfriend to his battle buddies at the Marine Corps Ball.

Change is the President and the First Lady and members of the Administration telling young people across the country that bullying is wrong, their lives matter, and it does get better.

Change is a world in which a young man like Matthew Shepard can grow up, fall in love, and live happily ever after, because the President signed into law the first piece of federal legislation in history containing the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”– and because his government has acted to bring us closer to a day when hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are history.

And change is President Obama and his Administration standing for equal rights under the law for committed gay and lesbian couples by informing courts that Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

Now, I can be as frustrated as anyone by the pace of change. Change is slow. Change is hard.

But the change I’ve been talking about?

This change is real.

It didn’t just “happen.”

It took vigilance and commitment – from you and from the President and his Administration.

As many of you may know, President Obama had inscribed on the carpet in the Oval Office a quote of Martin Luther King’s – which reads “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

At moments when change is hard and his head is bowed, I often imagine President Obama, looking down and seeing these words – and remembering to keep his eyes on the prize.

I mention that quote not just because I believe that progress I’ve described over these last three years proves its truth.

But also because we didn’t come this far because we hoped that arc would bend.

We got this far because of people throughout our proud history—people like Val Burke, Mitch and Michelle DeShane and the countless others whose names we’ll never know—had the strength and the courage to lean on that arc – and inspire others to as well.

Because the kind of change we need can’t be led by Washington. It never is.

It’s got to be led by people – as President Obama has said, by “ordinary citizens…propelled not just by politics but by love and friendship and a sense of mutual regard.”

It’s got to be led by you.

By me.

By all of us. There are no sidelines in these fights.

Like our President, I believe America succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules.

Those are our values as Americans.

They represent who we are – and who we aspire to be.

So, let’s make it happen. Let’s keep creating change – this year, next and every year going forward.

Thank you for this opportunity – for all you do and all I know you’ll continue to do in the weeks ahead.