Federal study finds gay couples face rental discrimination


Gay couples have a harder time finding a place to rent together than straight couples, according to the first national housing study on the issue.

Released Tuesday, the report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that same-sex couples received fewer responses from rental agents than heterosexual couples when responding to online advertisements. Gay male couples have it more difficult than lesbian couples, according to the research.

“We need to continue our efforts to ensure that everyone is treated the same when it comes to finding a home to call their own, regardless of their sexual orientation,” Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan said in news release announcing the study.


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The study, titled “An Estimate of Housing Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples,” was based on about 7,000 inquiries in 50 metro areas across the country, from June to October of 2011. With each rental unit surveyed by the researchers, two inquiries were sent, with the only distinguishing factors between the messages being whether the couple was same-sex or heterosexual.

The study found that straight couples were favored over gay male couples 15.9% of the time and over lesbian couples 15.6% of the time. The study found discrimination occurred in all markets tested.

In an unexpected finding, jurisdictions where discrimination based on sexuality is by law prohibited, the discrimination was worse than in places without such protections. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is not prohibited by the federal Fair Housing Act.


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