Trump administration strikes abhorrent new rule to ’empower’ homeless shelters to turn away vulnerable trans people

Homeless shelters could soon be free to refuse services to transgender people under a new law change proposed by the Trump administration.

On Thursday (July 1) the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed a modification to 2016’s Equal Access Rule, which currently requires all federally-funded housing services to be provided without discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

HUD is now seeking to make this trans-inclusive policy voluntary, in order to better accommodate the “religious beliefs of shelter providers.”

The change was proposed by senior Trump official Ben Carson, who has previously claimed that “big, hairy men” are trying to enter women’s spaces.

His department has justified the change in the law by arguing it would prevent cis men from surreptitiously gaining access to women’s homeless shelters to abuse residents or track down spouses.

Ben Carson says homeless policy will ’empower’ transphobic shelter providers.

“This important update will empower shelter providers to set policies that align with their missions, like safeguarding victims of domestic violence or human trafficking,” Carson said in a press release.

“Mission-focused shelter operators play a vital and compassionate role in communities across America. The federal government should empower them, not mandate a single approach that overrides local law and concerns.”

President Donald Trump listens as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson speaks

Donald Trump stands behind secretary of housing and development Ben Carson (Jabin Botsford/Getty)

HUD claims it won’t allow discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. But LGBT+ advocates fear that, in practice, it would likely lead to trans, non-binary or gender non-conforming people being turned away or forced into housing that doesn’t correspond with their gender.

“The Trump administration is targeting transgender people for discrimination,” Sharita Gruberg of the Centre for American Progress said in a statement.

“Giving shelters a license to discriminate against transgender people would be wrong at any time, but to do so in the midst of a pandemic and an economic crisis constitutes an act of wanton cruelty.”

She continued: “This proposed rule risks the lives and safety of people who are transgender or gender-nonconforming, whose ability to obtain lifesaving housing services will be up to the whims and potential biases of individual providers.”

Ben Carson has been paving the way for trans-exclusive policies since Trump appointed him to secretary of housing and development in 2017. The revised rule has been in the works for more than a year, drawing strong criticism from transgender advocates and Democrats.

When challenged earlier this year by Democrat Mike Quigley of Illinois, Carson suggested that allowing shelters to refuse trans people is necessary because “we have to take everybody’s feelings into consideration”.

The revised rule is subject to a 60-day period of public comment before becoming final.