SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A proposed rule by the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Wednesday would allow shelters to consider religious beliefs, privacy and safety concerns as reasons to deny transgender individuals access to shelter facilities, critics of the rule claim.
Utah trans activist Sue Robbins said she believes the rule guts an Obama-era provision called the Equal Access Rule, which granted equal access to facilities to all, regardless of how they identify.
“It’s just been one attack after another against marginalized communities,” Robbins told ABC4 News Thursday. She’s the board chair for Transgender Education Advocates of Utah. “We’re losing all our protections from the government, and it’s resulting in greater and greater discriminations.”
A 2012 study by the Williams Institute showed 40 percent of homeless youth in America identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Robbins said there’s a significant number of homeless trans youth in Utah who would be affected by this new policy, adding many trans young people experience homelessness due to family rejection after coming out.
However, HUD Secretary Ben Carson insisted this week on Capitol Hill that protections will not be stripped for trans individuals and that the Equal Access Rule will still apply.
HUD itself, on the other hand, said Thursday the 2016 Equal Access Rule doesn’t do enough to protect people from individuals who may misrepresent their sex to gain access to sex-specific facilities, like bathrooms.
The rule, HUD claims, aims to “[offer] local homeless shelter providers the flexibility to determine under their own policies what a person’s sex is.”
A HUD spokesperson sent this statement to ABC4 News Thursday:
“Later this year, HUD will be proposing a change to the 2016 rule that will offer local homeless shelter providers greater flexibility when making decisions about individuals who may misrepresent their sex to access sex-specific shelters. HUD is, and will always be, committed to ensuring that every person accessing its programs can do so without discrimination.”