Pride month is a time to step back and appreciate the progress we have seen for LGBTQ+ people in Illinois—and to identity the urgent issues and harms still facing these communities. Lack of access to stable housing affects so many people, and anti-LGBTQ+ housing discrimination has long been a barrier to the safety and welfare of queer and transgender people. And in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, stable housing is more important than ever.
LGBTQ+ people continue to face significant bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing. A study from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that same-sex couples and transgender people both encountered discrimination in rental housing markets based on their identities. According to data from the National Center for Transgender Equality, over one-fifth of transgender Illinoisans report experiencing gender-identity-related housing discrimination.
These patterns are horrifying yet sadly common, even in Illinois. This discrimination affects LGBTQ+ people across all types of housing, from shelters turning away trans people experiencing homelessness to landlords refusing to rent to same-sex couples.
This is why the ACLU has gone to court to bolster legal protections for queer and trans people in all spheres of public and private life. A year ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity constitutes illegal sex discrimination under federal employment law.
Importantly, this recent litigation’s reach extends further. As the Biden Administration recently recognized, the Fair Housing Act’s ban on sex discrimination also necessarily bans discrimination based on someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including their LGBTQ+ status.
This federal antidiscrimination protection provides an important tool to protect queer and trans people seeking housing, especially in places across the country that lack LGBTQ+-inclusive state or local fair-housing protections. Here in Illinois, enforcement of the federal Fair Housing Act adds another set of tools to ensure that LGBTQ+ people who encounter housing discrimination have recourse to challenge that illegal behavior.
As part of our efforts to combat housing discrimination more broadly, the ACLU of Illinois has helped support protections against discrimination based on criminal records. Cook County’s Just Housing Amendment now bans landlords from categorically denying housing to applicants with records and guarantees that applicants receive individualized consideration. These efforts are especially important for queer and trans Illinoisans, because housing discrimination against people with records disproportionately affects LGBTQ+ communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of challenging unfair discrimination by shelters, landlords, and other housing providers. That is why the ACLU of Illinois will continue to fight against discrimination and all the current barriers that LGBTQ+ communities face to living safely and securely—during this Pride month and year-round.