In the first study of its kind, a report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) found that same-sex couples experience unfavorable treatment in the online rental housing market as compared to opposite-sex couples. Across all 50 metropolitan areas studied, inquiries sent to housing providers advertising their rental properties on the Internet were significantly less likely to receive a response when the applicants were listed as a same-sex couple.
According to the report:
Same-sex couples are significantly less likely than heterosexual couples to get favorable responses to e-mail inquiries about electronically advertised rental housing. Comparing our gross measures of discrimination, heterosexual couples were favored over gay male couples in 15.9 percent of tests and over lesbian couples in 15.6 percent of tests.
While there is no federal law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, public accommodations, or housing, 20 states and more than 240 localities offer at least some protections against housing discrimination against gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. The study found that the rates of discrimination was very slightly higher in states with legal protections, but at least same-sex couples in those states have some legal recourse in those situations. And since the study only looked at state-level legislative protection and ignored local protections applying to municipalities, that statistic could be misleading.
Even though discrimination based on race in housing has been illegal nationally since the 1968 Fair Housing Act, African-Americans and other racial minorites are still facing discrimination. A recent HUD-Urban Institute study found realtors consistently show white buyers more homes than African-American and Asian-American buyers with similar credit qualifications and housing interests.
While legal protections are an important tool in the fight against discrimination, these studies show that they are only one part of a broader solution.