Bishops push back on allowing gay couples in housing

March 28, 2011

WASHINGTON (RNS) U.S. Catholic bishops are urging federal housing
officials not to adopt proposed rules that would bar groups that receive
federal funds from discriminating against gays, lesbians or transgender
persons in housing programs.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development said the new rules,
proposed on Jan. 24, would "ensure equal access" to programs that help
the elderly, sick, and impoverished find stable housing.

Citing recent studies, HUD said gays and lesbians face
discrimination in the private housing market, and one in five
transgender persons reports homelessness due to bias.

"In considering the mounting evidence of violence and discrimination
against LGBT persons, the department is concerned that its own programs
may not be fully open to LGBT individuals and families," HUD said in

Lawyers for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops say the new
rules would force some religious groups to compromise their beliefs or
quit HUD housing programs.

"Faith-based and other organizations should retain the freedom they
have always had to make housing placements in a manner consistent with
their religious beliefs, including when it concerns a cohabiting couple,
be it an unmarried heterosexual couple or a homosexual couple," said
Anthony Picarello and Michael Moses, lawyers for the bishops conference.

The lawyers' remarks came in a letter to HUD as part of a public
comment period that ended Friday (March 25). A spokeswoman for HUD could
not be reached immediately for comment about when the new policy would
take effect.