Let me tell you why EQLA is going all out on fair housing this year, with multiple comprehensive housing bills filed that address forms of discrimination that go beyond the traditional categories an LGBT group would usually be interested in.
The ability to put a stable roof over your head and have a home to call your own is one of the most basic necessities of human survival. We know from polling data that Louisiana residents – over 90% of them, from every demographic category you can think of – believe that nobody should be denied housing because they are gay or transgender.
That’s fantastic, and it’s something every politician in the state needs to take to heart – Louisiana residents are not afraid of their LGBT neighbors. But it’s important to realize that if we only look to include the words “gay and transgender” or “sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression” in laws and policies, we can inadvertently wind up leaving members of our community behind.
Poverty and discriminatory policing take their toll on the LGBT community in unique and awful ways. LGBT people of color are much more likely than their straight, cisgender, or white peers to experience police harassment, and they are thus vastly more likely to have to carry some sort of arrest or conviction record through life as a result of discriminatory policing policies. Louisiana in particular has an ongoing crisis with regard to the unjustified and unjustifiable treatment of people of color in what is laughingly referred to as our “justice” system.
Moreover, research also shows that married same-sex couples and transgender people in all sorts of relationship categories are significantly more likely than average to live in poverty. In practical terms, this often means that these folks have to stabilize their financial situation by relying on forms of assistance such as unemployment insurance, TANF, disability assistance, or Social Security – all of which are absolutely valid means of getting by in the world, but which are often stigmatized by landlords and the public at large.
It’s therefore vital that our fair housing laws reflect the reality of the world we live in. The law should not allow landlords to deny victims of police harassment a stable roof over their heads. Nobody who relies on lawful forms of income to pay their bills should be kicked out of their house because someone believes a hurtful stereotype about what kind of person they must be.
These forms of discrimination have a severe and negative impact on LGBT people, people of color, and especially on individuals who fall into the intersection of those categories.
That’s why we’re making such a push for fair housing, and that’s why we’re coming out strongly in favor of HB 871 by Rep. Patricia Haynes Smith, which adds all these categories and more to the list of protected classes in Louisiana’s fair housing law – because in Louisiana, we take care of all of our neighbors.