July/August 2019 Church & State Magazine - July/August 2019

Trump Administration Seeks To Roll Back Protections For Homeless Transgender People

  Rob Boston

The Trump administration in May announced that it wants to roll back protections for homeless people who are transgender.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) plans to do away with a rule that prevents single-sex homeless shelters from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Under HUD’s proposed change, homeless shelter operators could create a policy to consider “an individual’s sex for the purposes of determining accommodation within such shelters and for purposes of determining sex for admission to any facility or portion thereof,” reported USA Today.

The change would also allow shelter operators to consider “practical concerns [and] religious beliefs” as well as “the individual’s sex as reflected in official government documents” as a condition of offering shelter.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, criticized the proposal in a statement.

“This is a heartless attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” Keisling said. “The programs impacted by this rule are life-saving for transgender people, particularly youth rejected by their families, and a lack of stable housing fuels the violence and abuse that takes the lives of many transgender people of color across the country. Secretary [Ben] Carson’s actions are contrary to the mission of his Department and yet another example of the tragic cruelty of this administration.”

A survey of transgender people found that one in three were homeless in their lifetime, and one in eight were homeless within the last year.

A few days after that policy was announced, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a new proposed rule that would reverse an Obama-era policy that defined sex discrimination in a manner that included transgender people. If enacted, the rule would wipe out protections for trans people in a variety of HHS programs.

Prodded by Religious Right groups, President Donald Trump has been steadily eroding protections extended to LGBTQ Americans, especially members of the transgender community. Last year, Trump abrupt­ly reversed a policy that allowed trans men and women to serve in the military, a step he announced via Twitter and that he took without first consulting with military leaders.

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Americans United for Separation of Church and State joined 29 religious freedom organizations in filing an amicus brief that explained how anti-discrimination laws like Colorado’s protect religious minorities as well as LGBTQ people and customers with other protected characteristics, such as race, sex, age and ability.

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