Rep Wexton Ensuring Equal Access to Shelter Act Markup: Opening Remarks





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Uploaded on Jun 12, 2019

Remarks as prepared:
Thank you, Madam Chair, for allowing this important legislation to be considered.

It's appropriate that we are having this debate against the backdrop of Pride month, a time when people across the country are taking a positive stance against discrimination and violence toward LGBT individuals.

In 2012, under the Obama administration, HUD finalized the Equal Access Rule, prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people in housing.

As a result, housing providers that receive HUD funding must ensure that their programs are open to all eligible individuals and families regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.

Recognizing that the 2012 Rule did not adequately address discrimination faced by transgender individuals seeking access to shelters, the Obama administration expanded the Equal Access Rule in 2016 to ensure equal access to temporary, emergency shelters in accordance with an individual’s gender identity.

This is important because:
• Nearly one-third of transgender and gender non-binary people experience homelessness at some point in their life;
• According to a Center for American Progress study done in 2015, only 30 percent of shelter providers across four states -- including my own, Virginia -- were willing to properly accommodate transgender women;
• And, a survey done by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that roughly 70 percent of transgender individuals in homeless shelters experienced mistreatment, including harassment, sexual or physical assault, and being kicked out because they were transgender.

On May 22nd, HUD proposed a change that would essentially gut the 2016 shelter protections, allowing shelter providers to deny transgender people equal access to federally-funded services.

Make no mistake: this is incredibly dangerous. The consequences of being turned away from shelter can be dire.

The announcement came as a surprise considering it was only the day before that HUD Secretary Ben Carson told this committee “I’m not currently anticipating changing the rule.”

My legislation, the Ensuring Equal Access to Shelter Act, would block HUD from going forward with its plan to gut shelter protections, thereby ensuring transgender people access to HUD-funded shelter consistent with their gender identity.
The bill is supported by the Center for American Progress, Corporation for Supportive Housing, National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Women’s Law Center, National Center for Transgender Equality and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

I hope my colleagues will support this sensible legislation, and I yield back.


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