A new national study found that same-sex couples are discriminated against in the rental housing market, even if correspondence is conducted online.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development conducted the study, the first of its kind, and found that gay and lesbian couples are less likely to be treated favorably when inquiring about rental properties.
"This study provides an important initial observation of discrimination based on sexual orientation at the threshold stage of the rental transaction and is a point of departure for future research on housing discrimination against same-sex couples," the report says. HUD conducted 6,833 email correspondence tests in 50 metropolitan markets throughout the country. For each test, researchers sent two emails to the housing provider, but the only difference was the sexual orientation of the couple making the inquiry.
The study found that same-sex couples received significantly fewer responses to the email inquiries than heterosexual couples.
Aisha Moodie-Mills, an advisor for LGBT policy and racial justice at the Center for American Progress, said she was pleased with the results of the study because they will help ensure the fair treatment of LGBT people in the rental market.
"This study affirmed what we anecdotally knew — LGBT couples are indeed experiencing bias and discrimination when they seek housing," she said.
Fair housing laws prohibit housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status and disability — but not sexual orientation or gender identity, according to a report on the study. However, 20 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that do so, according to the Associated Press.
And HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said in a statement that the Obama administration is committed to making sure people are treated equally.
"HUD has taken historic steps in the area of fair housing to ensure that we fulfill our nation's commitment to equality," Donovan said in the statement. "As this study shows, 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.
But results of the study show that not only was discrimination present in all geographic markets tested, but there was also "slightly more adverse treatment" of same-sex couples in states with discrimination protections.
The department enacted an equal access housing rule last year, which prevents officials at HUD-funded housing units from discriminating against applicants based on their "actual or perceived" sexual orientation or gender identity, according to The Huffington Post.
Bryan Greene, HUD's acting assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, said in a statement that the department is committed to ensuring LGBT individuals have equal access to housing opportunities.
"A person's sexual orientation or gender identity should not be a reason to receive unfavorable treatment when searching for housing," Greene said.