POLITICS
05/22/2019 11:44 EDT | Updated 05/22/2019 18:13 EDT

Trump Admin Rule Would Allow Homeless Shelters To Shut Out Transgender People

HUD Secretary Ben Carson's department proposes weakening Equal Access Rule protections for transgender people established in 2012.

President Donald Trump’s administration has proposed a rule change that would allow homeless shelters to deny transgender people equal access to services.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development proposal is focused on the Equal Access Rule, first published in 2012 to “ensure shelters and programs do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” the National Center for Transgender Equality said Wednesday in a press release calling attention to the proposal.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson told House lawmakers this week HUD was “not currently anticipating changing the rule.”

“He lied,” the advocacy group said on Twitter.

HUD’s proposed change, published this spring, would allow shelter providers to consider “an individual’s sex for the purposes of determining accommodation within such shelters and for purposes of determining sex for admission to any facility.” Providers can consider “privacy, safety, practical concerns, religious beliefs” when making a determination about an individual’s sex, the proposed rule says. 

Neither the White House nor HUD immediately responded to requests for comment.

Carson in the past has expressed feelings about trans individuals experiencing homelessness. In 2018, he testified before a House subcommittee that women “were not comfortable” being in a shelter with “somebody who had a very different anatomy” in response to Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), who asked him about the removal of HUD training materials that help protect LGBTQ people from discrimination.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, slammed the plan as a “heartless attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our society.” 

“The programs impacted by this rule are life-saving for transgender people, particularly youth rejected by their families, and a lack of stable housing fuels the violence and abuse that takes the lives of many transgender people of color across the country. Secretary Carson’s actions are contrary to the mission of his Department and yet another example of tragic cruelty of this administration,” Keisling said in a statement.

The Equal Access Rule change reflects an administration with a complicated relationship with the LGBTQ community.

Trump said after the 2016 shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida: “As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens.”

However, in his first year in office, Trump rescinded nondiscrimination regulations that protected people in the LGBTQ community, prohibited transgender people from serving in the military and attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which guaranteed equal treatment of trans individuals by insurers and medical providers and forbade “health insurers from categorically excluding treatments related to gender transitions.”

Roughly one-third of transgender Americans have experienced homelessness at one point in their lifetime, according to a 2015 survey. About 70% of trans respondents who resided in homeless shelters made claims of mistreatment that included harassment, sexual or physical assault, and being kicked out because they were transgender.