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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

HUD to “fully enforce” prohibition against sex- and gender-based discrimination

Federal Issues HUD Fair Housing Act Fair Lending Executive Order

Federal Issues

On February 11, HUD announced that it will administer and enforce the Fair Housing Act (FHA) to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, in response to President Biden’s Executive Order (E.O.) 13988. According to a memorandum issued by HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity (FHEO), the E.O. directs federal agencies to assess actions taken under federal statutes that “prohibit sex discrimination and to fully enforce those statutes to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” in response to the recent Supreme Court opinion in Bostock v Clayton County (holding that prohibitions against sex discrimination in the workplace contained in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extend to and include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity). The memorandum notes that “the [FHA’s] sex discrimination provisions are comparable in text and purpose to those of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act,” thus HUD intends to enforce the FHA to prevent and combat similar discrimination. The memorandum directs HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity to, among other things, (i) “accept and investigate all jurisdictional complaints of sex discrimination, including discrimination because of gender identity or sexual orientation…”; (ii) “conduct all activities involving the application, interpretation, and enforcement of the [FHA]’s prohibition on sex discrimination consistent with its conclusion that such discrimination includes discrimination because of sexual orientation and gender identity”; and (iii) ensure FHEO regional offices and other associated agencies review, within 30 days, all allegations of alleged discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation received since January 20, 2020.

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