By Ellyn Fortino, Communications Intern

The government is preparing a first-ever study of housing discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people that will include data from Chicago and begin Thursday, according to the Huffington Post.

Starting Thursday, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department will enlist residents in three cities with large gay populations - Chicago, New York and San Francisco - to offer ideas on how such a study should be conducted.

Bias complaints and lawsuits nationwide make clear that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people face housing discrimination, from being turned down for apartments to being steered away from certain neighborhoods, but no one has tried to track how common such bias is. HUD hopes to begin collecting data next year.

John Knight, director of the ACLU of Illinois Lesbian and Gay Rights/AIDS Project said in the article the study should ensure it detects actual bias.

Those testing "have to think of a way to make it clear that this is a gay couple and not just two men who really can't afford to do anything than get a single apartment with a single room," said John Knight of the American Civil Liberties Union.

According to the article, advocates hope HUD's data collection could be a first step in receiving legal protection for gays under the Fair Housing Act, which currently does not cover gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.