In the past several weeks, some state legislatures across the county have been working to enact legislation that would have the effect of giving businesses, and potentially even police and firefighters, the right to discriminate based on sexual orientation. Unfortunately, these actions are just another demonstration of the discrimination that same-sex couples encounter every day.
Today, the ERC unveiled the results of a 10-state testing investigation documenting adverse and differential treatment against older same-sex couples seeking housing in senior living facilities.
The report, titled “Opening Doors: An Investigation of Barriers to Senior Housing for Same-Sex Couples,” documents the results of 200 matched-pair telephone tests conducted by the ERC in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington. In 96 of the 200 tests (48 percent), a tester inquiring about housing in a senior living facility for a same-sex couple experienced at least one form of adverse differential treatment, as compared to a counterpart tester inquiring about the same housing for an opposite-sex couple.
“This investigation is the first of its kind to focus on providing objective, quantitative data specific to older same-sex couples seeking senior housing,” said Don Kahl, Executive Director of the ERC. “Older LGBT individuals face many unique challenges when seeking housing at senior-living facilities, and discriminatory practices cause further, undue hardship in the lives of LGBT seniors at a time when financial resources are often becoming more limited.” (more…)
By Kat Taylor, Disability Rights Program Manager
The purpose of the present Convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.
-The U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
To date, 139 nations have ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act, the CRPD is a landmark international human rights treaty that protects and promotes the rights of people with disabilities around the world. Although President Obama signed the treaty in 2009, embarrassingly, the U.S. Senate has failed to ratify the CRPD. (more…)
The ERC is proud to announce the publication of our newest self-advocacy toolkit, which adds to the ever-growing list of ERC resources available to those who face discrimination in housing. The Sexual Harassment and Fair Housing Toolkit addresses the issues that many individuals face regarding unwanted sexual harassment in a housing environment.
“This toolkit is a valuable resource for any individual who faces, or has faced, unlawful and unwanted sexual harassment in a rental housing setting,” said Melissa Rothstein, Deputy Director of the ERC. “This toolkit clearly and concisely advises tenants the protections they have against sexual harassment under the Fair Housing Act, and provides the tools for individuals to respond when they experience this type of discrimination.”
Sexual harassment – such as unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature – is against the law and considered a form of sex discrimination. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits sex discrimination that impacts the terms or conditions of housing, is used as a basis for housing decisions, or otherwise has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with housing rights, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. Many states, counties, and cities have laws with additional protections against sex discrimination and sexual harassment in housing.
To download a PDF of this report, click here.
To request a hard copy of the toolkit, send us an email at email@example.com.
*The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.
By Grant Beck, ERC Communications Associate
One of the most iconic representations of my home state is the omnipresent mantra “Virginia is for Lovers.” Bumper stickers, magnets, and t-shirts emblazoned with the phrase can be found all over the Commonwealth. And what’s not to love? Few states in the Union can boast the rich and storied history of the Old Dominion. The landscape varies from pristine coastline, to richly-colored woods, to majestically blue-tinged mountain ranges. The brilliant, revolutionary minds of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison all called the state home. Virginia, it seems, is indeed for lovers.
Except, when it isn’t.
Last week, the Virginia General Assembly had two pieces of legislation to consider, both dealing with the on-going struggle for LGBT equality. The first bill, SB248, attempted to enact a statewide ban on employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, making it illegal for employers to discriminate against LGBT workers. The bill’s language was similar to newly-elected Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order banning LGBT discrimination against all state employees. The employment non-discrimination bill vote deadlocked in subcommittee, making it ineligible to move to a vote in front of the full State Senate (one half of Virginia’s bicameral legislature). (more…)
By Victoria Lanteigne, Corporate Partnerships and Training Manager
MHRP member representatives arrive for the 5th Annual MHRP Meeting in November. Currently, the MHRP has 18 members dedicated to promoting accessibility in housing.
In 2008, the Equal Rights Center (ERC) started a pilot program with the goal of increasing the number of residential housing units and properties in the United States that are accessible to persons with disabilities. The program sought to change the way that multifamily housing development, construction, and management companies approached accessibility. All too often, the ERC had found, the approach to accessibility was reactive. Apartment and condo developers and builders would construct multi-million dollar complexes, only to find themselves spending incredibly large sums to remove barriers to accessibility, after the fact.
Since its founding, the ERC’s unique Multifamily Housing Resource Program (MHRP) has offered a new approach to accessibility issues. The MHRP focuses on proactively ensuring that multifamily units and complexes comply with federal and local regulations to promote accessibility for all prospective tenants. Through a variety of resources, the MHRP helps its members enhance compliance with the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other applicable state and local laws.
After five years of work, the MHRP has grown exponentially to 18 members, including developers representing more than 600,000 apartments and condominiums across the country, architectural design and accessibility firms, and accessibility-related product and service vendors. These industry leaders serve as models for the housing industry, and give many of the nation’s 57 million individuals with disabilities the opportunity to live where they choose. (more…)
By Snehee Khandeshi, ERC Fair Housing Program Coordinator
Earlier this week, Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) events took place across the globe to memorialize the victims of hate crimes motivated by transphobia, and bring attention to the continued violence experienced by the transgender community. On the fifteenth anniversary of TDOR, 238 individuals who were killed because of their gender identity during the past year were memorialized.
Trans communities constantly face the threat of violent crimes. The motivation and circumstances of violence perpetuated against transgender individuals is unclear, but it is clear that working to eliminate the everyday discrimination that trans people face in housing, employment, and in access to government resources is a necessary step toward reducing the threat of violence.
Though research regarding discrimination against the transgender community is scarce, in 2011 the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality published a report, titled Injustice at Every Turn, which documents discrimination faced by transgender individuals. With respect to housing, of the respondents to their national survey, 19 percent reported having been outright refused a home or apartment, and 11 percent reported being evicted because of their gender identity or expression. Furthermore, 19 percent reported experiencing homelessness at some point in their lives because they were transgender or gender non-conforming. Many of those who tried to gain access to a homeless shelter were harassed by shelter staff or residents. Almost a third were turned away from a shelter altogether and, alarmingly, 22 percent reported being sexually assaulted by residents or staff. (more…)
On Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Senate passed the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA) by a vote of 64 to 32. If passed into law, ENDA would ban employment discrimination based on a worker’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Federal law currently prohibits employment discrimination based on age, sex, race, color, national origin, disability, or religion. However, federal law does not protected workers who are fired, denied hire or promotion, mistreated, or otherwise discriminated against because they are, or are perceived to be, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).
ENDA was first introduced in Congress in 1994, and has been considered by either the House or the Senate nearly every year since then. The last time ENDA made it to a vote in the U.S. Senate was 1996, when the bill failed by one vote, 49-50.
The District of Columbia and 21 states currently have laws that protect LGBT workers from employment discrimination. This legislation would ensure that LGBT workers in every state have the same fair employment rights as other workers.
Polling data shows that the vast majority of the American public supports the protections in ENDA. Many business and industry leaders have also backed ENDA, including Apple, Nike, General Motors, General Electric, Time Warner, Wells Fargo and many others. The Obama administration has also expressed support for the bill. (more…)
ERC staff at our 30th anniversary event (from left to right—Snehee Khandeshi, Stephanie Gonzalez, former staffer Ian Watlington, and Maria Emma del Toro).
By Stephanie Gonzalez, ERC Immigrant Rights Program Manager
Heritage is a word that I’ve never quite fully understood. Perhaps this is because I come from an Ethnic Studies educational background, where the concepts of culture being “socially constructed” and in a constant state of “fluidity” have challenged any notion of something actually belonging to me by right of birth. As I sit here with several invitations for Hispanic Heritage events looming on my calendar, I can’t help but think of what my Hispanic heritage has meant to me. For many individuals born in the United States, whose parents left their country of origin to pursue a better life in America, a discussion of heritage would be amiss without acknowledgement of the challenges their parents faced to start a new life in the land of opportunity. Heritage is not just colorful flags, finger-licking foods, boisterous music, and flashy costumes celebrating cultural traditions. Heritage is the journey. Heritage is the strife, the sweat, and the tears. (more…)
The ERC is proud to announce the publication of the Accessible Health Care Self Advocacy Toolkit. This toolkit is just one of the many resources and publications that the ERC uses to educate individuals about their rights under federal, state and local laws.
More than 57 million people living in the United States have at least one type of disability. People with disabilities have a right to accessible health care under federal, state and local laws. As medical technologies and facilities continue to advance, health care providers must ensure that all services are accessible to individuals with disabilities. The lack of accessible health care facilities, equipment, and services too often means compromised medical diagnoses and treatment, to the detriment of patients with disabilities.
The Accessible Health Care Self Advocacy Toolkit is designed to inform individuals of the civil rights afforded to patients with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This toolkit also instructs individuals on how to alert a medical service provider to an accessibility issue and how to request a reasonable accommodation for a medical care facility. (more…)
The Equal Rights Center (ERC) has been awarded two grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Fair Housing Initiative Program (FHIP).
“The ERC is honored to be a recipient of these grants, and to continue to partner with from the Department of Housing and Urban Development in promoting equal housing opportunity for all,” said Don Kahl, Executive Director of the ERC. “With these funds, we will continue to provide education and outreach, testing, and advocacy to protect and promote fair housing, and will be able to further grow this work to reach the most vulnerable advance the ERC’s and HUD’s mission of affirmatively furthering fair housing, and will continue to work collaboratively to advance civil rights for both individuals and whole communities.”
The ERC is the recipient of a three-year Private Enforcement Initiative (PEI) grant, which will support testing investigations and intake complaint assistance throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan area. The ERC will receive $325,000 for the first year of the grant, with future funding contingent upon HUD’s budget. The ERC will also receive a one-year $125,000 Education and Outreach Initiative (EOI) grant, which will support the dissemination of fair housing information to diverse communities through workshops, trainings, publications, online messaging, and other communications. (more…)