HUD restores transgender homeless protections dropped by Trump

Reversal would allow transgender people to stay in shelters that correspond with their gender identities

Protesters demonstrate outside the Supreme Court during arguments on whether gay and transgender people are covered by a federal law barring employment discrimination on the basis of sex on Oct. 8, 2019.  (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Protesters demonstrate outside the Supreme Court during arguments on whether gay and transgender people are covered by a federal law barring employment discrimination on the basis of sex on Oct. 8, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted April 23, 2021 at 11:10am

The Housing and Urban Development Department recommitted to Obama-era protections that ensure transgender people experiencing homelessness can stay in shelters that correspond with their gender identities.

The department on Thursday withdrew a proposal put forward under President Donald Trump last year that would have rolled back the protections in HUD’s 2012 Equal Access rule for transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals.

Trump’s proposal would have allowed shelters, particularly single-sex shelters, to set their own policies on whether to admit individuals based on gender or biological sex.

“Access to safe, stable housing — and shelter — is a basic necessity,” HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge said in a statement. “Unfortunately, transgender and gender non-conforming people report more instances of housing instability and homelessness than cis-gender people. Today, we are taking a critical step in affirming HUD’s commitment that no person be denied access to housing or other critical services because of their gender identity.”

Protections added to the rule in 2016 ensure a transgender or gender-nonconforming person can’t be turned away from shelters that correspond to their gender identities. The rule applies to shelters that receive HUD funding.

When Trump took office, the department refused to enforce the rule and removed from HUD's website guidance for shelters seeking to comply with the rule.

Trump’s proposal would have “opened the door for shelter programs and operators funded with federal money to subject people seeking shelter to inappropriate, traumatic, and intrusive inquiries; deny them accommodations; and subject them to increased risks of assault and harassment,” a senior department official said on a call with reporters. Under the terms of the call, the official can’t be identified.

The number of transgender adults experiencing homelessness grew during Trump’s time in office, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

Transgender adults experiencing homelessness increased 88 percent from 2016 to 2020. The number of transgender adults living fully on the street rather than in shelters grew 113 percent during that time, the advocacy group said in July, using HUD data that captures the number of homeless people on a single night in January.

Transgender individuals are also more likely to be left out of shelters, the group said.

Fudge faced questions about the Equal Access rule from Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing this week. Quigley pressed Fudge to commit to reposting guidance on the rule online, which she did.

“Without this guidance, HUD providers lack the instructions necessary to follow department rules, prohibiting the discrimination. LGBT individuals are more likely to face, as a result, unnecessary and harmful barriers to receiving services that they badly need,” Quigley said at the hearing.

The Federal Register is expected to publish HUD’s withdrawal of the Trump rule next week, officials said.