Study Shows Widespread Housing Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples

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The first major study on housing discrimination against same-sex couples is in, and it appears that while same-sex couples now have more rights than ever before, they may still may have trouble finding an apartment.

The study from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development involved sending e-mails to housing providers inquiring about units advertised online. The provider would receive an e-mail from each of two couples – the only difference being the couple's sexual orientation. Drawing on close to 7,000 of these paired e-mail tests in 50 cities around the U.S., the study found that “same-sex couples receive significantly fewer responses to e-mail inquiries about advertised units than heterosexual couples.”

Here's what it boils down to: You see an ad online for an apartment. You e-mail to ask if it's still available and if you can check it out. If you say you'll be joined by your partner whose name appears to belong to the same gender as yours, you are 16 percent less likely to be invited to check it out than if you say you will be joined by your (straight-sounding) husband or wife.

See how same-sex housing discrimination stacks up to other kinds of housing discrimination after the jump.  For comparison's sake, same-sex couples are discriminated against slightly less than racial minorities (who we know are pretty majorly discriminated against in housing), but not by all that much. According to the study:

“The incidence of consistently favored treatment of heterosexual couples relative to gay male and lesbian couples (that is, 15.9 and 15.6 percent, respectively) is similar in magnitude to the incidence of consistently favored treatment of White homeseekers relative to Black and Hispanic homeseekers (that is, 21.6 and 25.7 percent, respectively).”

It's been a big summer for gay rights. With the court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex couples in many states will be able to enjoy the full recognition and protection of the law if they choose to marry. But challenges clearly remain.

We previously covered how the DOMA ruling isn't exactly good news for Texas. Texas still does not (and likely will not for a while) recognize these marriages, and thus will not extend critical protections. It's a long road ahead, here and in many other states.

The housing discrimination study serves as yet another reminder of what the LGBT community (and progressives generally) are up against. We may live in a post-DOMA world, but we are clearly not past the prejudices that DOMA was built on.  


About Author

Emily Cadik

Emily is a Texas ex-pat and proud Longhorn living in Washington, DC, where she remains connected to the Lone Star State through her work on BOR and her enthusiasm for breakfast tacos. She works on affordable housing policy, and writes about health care, poverty and other social justice issues.

1 Comment

  1. Austin prohibits discrimination against the LGBT community
    The city's Equal Employment Fair Housing office participated in the HUD study of the presence LGBT housing discrimination in the City of Austin.  Through a partnership with the Austin Tenet's Council, the city sent secret shoppers to housing providers to see what forms of discrimination existed. Much of what they found were specials not being offered to same sex couples, housing providers telling same sex couples that there were no vacancies, and added fees that opposite sex couples do not have to pay.

    If you are LGBT (or anyone for that matter) and experience any of these issues please contact the Austin Equal Employment Fair Housing office at 512-974-3262 or visit their office at 1050 East 11th Street Austin, TX 78702. An investigator will be assigned to gather evidence to determine if the claim has merit.  Additional information can be found at their website at

    While this is Texas, Austin prohibits discrimination under title 5 of the city code on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It's important that all cases of discrimination are reported and investigated. These investigations provide valuable data to policy makers to help make the case for state wide anti-discrimination laws for the LGBT community and helps reinforce the values held by the people of Austin that discrimination is not acceptable in any form.  

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