Connecticut Protects Housing Rights of Transgender Individuals (No Matter What the Federal Government Says)
Last week, the Trump Administration proposed a rule that would allow homeless shelter providers to discriminate against transgender individuals by allowing shelters to refuse to provide shelter in same-sex shelters in accordance with a person’s gender identity. This proposed rule would overturn Obama-era guidance that directed shelter providers to do the opposite.
Despite the Trump Administration’s continued assault on transgender individuals in health, education, employment, and housing, transgender individuals retain protected class status in Connecticut.
Since 2011, Connecticut has been one of few states in the nation that protects the civil rights of transgender individuals by prohibiting discrimination in housing. Connecticut’s anti-discrimination protections expressly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression.
Discrimination against transgender individuals can take many forms, and may include housing providers asking intrusive and unnecessary questions about body parts or surgeries, shelter providers insisting that a transgender person accept shelter in a facility that does not correspond with the individual’s gender identity, and housing providers’ refusal to use a transgender individual’s correct name or pronouns. Housing discrimination against transgender applicants can also include more subtle “discrimination with a smile” that may be harder to detect, such as quoting a higher rental amount or charging a larger security deposit, showing fewer or less desirable apartments, or misrepresenting the availability of an apartment.
Under Connecticut law, homeless shelters in the state are required to provide housing to individuals seeking shelter that corresponds to their gender identity, regardless of sex assigned at birth. For example, all women, whether transgender or cisgender, must be allowed into women’s shelters. These laws help protect the dignity and safety of transgender individuals in housing.
Despite the 2011 law, housing providers—including homeless shelters—have continued to discriminate based on gender identity and expression. A 2015 investigation performed by the Connecticut Fair Housing Center revealed discrimination based on gender identity or expression in 100% of the test cases.
The Connecticut Fair Housing Center subsequently provided fair housing training to staff of the homeless shelter system in Connecticut, which has led to a reduction in discrimination in subsequent investigations.
There is a real chance that the Trump Administration’s proposed rule will cause confusion in Connecticut and lead to increased discrimination against transgender individuals as they seek shelter in the state. All housing providers, including homeless shelters, must understand that in Connecticut, the law remains unchanged: Connecticut prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and expression and prohibits shelters from refusing to provide shelter in accordance with a person’s gender identity.
People who believe they have experienced discrimination can report the discrimination to the Connecticut Fair Housing Center by calling (860) 247-4400 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.