Schatz, Senators Introduce Legislation To Stop Trump Administration Proposal To End Protections For Homeless Transgender People

Bill Would Block New HUD Rule Allowing Homeless Shelters To Turn Away Transgender Individuals

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) today led a group of ten senators in introducing new legislation to block a proposed rule at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that would strip away protections for homeless transgender people. Schatz’s bill, the Ensuring Equal Access to Shelter Act, is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). 

“It is immoral and un-American for our taxpayer dollars to support discrimination, especially when it comes to helping the homeless,” said Senator Schatz. “Homeless people deserve to be treated with dignity, and American taxpayers deserve to know they aren’t funding discrimination. Our bill fights back against this attack on the transgender community and will make sure no one seeking shelter is discriminated against because of who they are.”

The proposed HUD policy would allow federally funded homeless shelters to turn away transgender people or force transgender women into male shelters. The new proposal rolls back the Equal Access Rule, first implemented by the Obama Administration in 2012, which ensured HUD shelters did not discriminate based on a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The transgender community faces significant barriers to accessing housing and now the Trump Admiration has put transgender people experiencing homelessness, a population already facing enormous stigma, at risk of further discrimination. I am supporting this legislation to protect housing rights for transgender Americans,” said Senator Baldwin.

“HUD’s mission is to protect housing for everyone and these efforts to discriminate must be stopped,” said Senator Brown.

“From the transgender military ban to stripping away health care protections for transgender patients, we have seen the Trump administration actively and aggressively work to discriminate against the transgender community. The rolling back of the Equal Access rule is just the administration’s latest attempt to perpetuate its bigotry. Those seeking protection in shelters must not be forsaken in their time of need. We cannot allow our housing rules to be home to discrimination,” said Senator Markey.

“This Administration’s heartless proposed rule allowing homeless shelters to turn away transgender individuals could put thousands of homeless youth and adults at risk in Nevada, and throughout the country,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “We need to stand up for our transgender community members, especially those in need of basic necessities like shelter, food and security. I’m proud to cosponsor this legislation to ensure vulnerable transgender Americans receive the support they need to stay safe and healthy.”

“Nobody should be discriminated against, and the Trump Administration’s plan to strip away protections for transgender people experiencing homelessness is downright shameful. That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce legislation to stop them in their tracks. I will continue to fight back against this Administration’s bigoted actions,” said Senator Van Hollen. 

“The Trump Administration cannot claim to care about combatting homelessness, while at the same time, discriminating against transgender Americans seeking shelter – especially when we know all too well LGBTQ individuals and youth face a heightened risk of homelessness due to discrimination, rejection, and hate,” said Senator Menendez. “It’s wrong and we’re introducing this bill to stop it.”

“Americans’ ability to have a roof over their head and a bed to sleep in shouldn’t depend on their gender identity,” said Senator Harris. “We must take a stand against this administration’s pattern of rolling back protections for transgender individuals, especially those who are the most vulnerable. I’m proud to join my colleagues on this legislation to ensure that federally funded homeless shelters remain viable options for transgender Americans.”

The transgender community experiences high rates of housing discrimination and homelessness. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, one in five transgender individuals experience homelessness in their lives, with family rejection and discrimination as leading factors.

Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representative Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.). 

“Senator Schatz’s legislation is needed to stop the administration’s proposal to eliminate critical protections for LGBTQ people experiencing homelessness and seeking emergency shelter – a move that will literally put lives at risk,” said Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “LGBTQ individuals, and especially youth, disproportionately experience homelessness in our country. By weakening the Equal Access Rule to allow federally-funded shelter providers to discriminate against LGBTQ people, HUD is abandoning its mission to end homelessness and ensure vulnerable people have a safe and decent home. We stand ready to work with Congress to enact this important legislation.”

“Permitting federally-funded shelters to turn away transgender people who are experiencing homelessness is one of the most dangerous and disgraceful attacks yet from the Trump administration. When shelters are allowed to turn trans people away — a policy that is sanctioned by a government that continues to push the lie that their mere existence threatens the privacy and safety of others — deadly violence against the trans community on the streets will rise. For trans youth of color and Black trans women who experience homelessness at appallingly high rates and are facing a largely unaddressed epidemic of violence, stopping this policy is quite literally a matter of life and death,” said Ian Thompson, Senior Legislative Representative for ACLU.

The legislation has the support of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Center for American Progress, Corporation for Supportive Housing, National Women's Law Center, National Center for Transgender Equality, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, ACLU, and National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund.