Fair housing law protects Colorado LGBT couple, rules federal judge

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

In the second landmark ruling in the past two days, a federal judge has ruled in favour of a lesbian couple who were discriminated against by a landlord.

The ruling was made by Denver federal judge Raymond Moore, who said that a landlord’s refusal to rent a house to a lesbian couple, one of them is transgender, violated a federal housing law.

Moore ruled that the Fair Housing Act applied to the case brought by Rachel and Tonya Smith, marking the first time the law has been applied to LGBT people.

Specified under the law are protections from discrimination based on race, religion and sex.

The Colorado couple brought the lawsuit against Deepika Avanti back in 2016.

Having sought to rent a townhouse in a small town near Denver, the couple had been told that the landlord and her husband wanted to keep a “low profile” and that their “unique relationship” might attract attention, via emails, according to the ruling.

The couple had initially been told that their two children might cause too much noise for them to rent the property.

“Such stereotypical norms are no different from other stereotypes associated with women, such as the way she should dress or act (e.g., that a woman should not be overly aggressive, or should not act macho), and are products of sex stereotyping,” wrote Moore in the ruling.

The ruling comes a day after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act banned discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual employees in the workplace.

A spokesman for Lambda Legal, which represented the plaintiffs in both cases, Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, said the decisions were “tremendous”.

“It sends a strong message: discrimination against LGBT Americans in housing and employment is illegal and will not be tolerated,” he said.

Reuters reports that Lambda Legal was working with Avanti’s lawyers to resolve the case.

“No one should ever have to go through what we went through, and hopefully this ruling will protect other couples like us who are trying to provide safe homes for their families,” Tonya Smith added.