The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s LGBT Equal Access Rule prevents federal entities from discriminating against mortgage applicants on the basis of marital status and/or sexual orientation. Don't tell that to Bank of America, though.
On January 2, HUD reached a settlement against Bank of America for discriminating against a Florida lesbian couple who were applying to the bank for a mortgage. HUD claimed that, by denying the couple a federally insured loan because of their marital status, the bank was in violation of the LGBT Equal Access Rule, which went into effect on March 2, 2012.
HUD claimed BOA denied the couple the loan because one partner was not employed, and the applicant enlisted her partner’s mother as a co-applicant on the loan. The couple worked with BOA for several weeks to provide all of the necessary loan application documents and the couple was assured by BOA that they were likely to receive a mortgage. One business day prior to closing, BOA denied the mortgage because it did not consider the loan applicant and the co-applicant directly related because the applicant and her partner were not married.
Florida is one of 30 states with a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage; it also prohibits civil unions between gay or lesbian couples.
The LGBT Equal Access Rule prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status in public housing and HUD’s core housing programs, including eligibility determinations for mortgage loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).
Though the amount of the settlement was undisclosed, Bank of America had to pay a fine of $7,500. In addition, the bank's employees now have to undergo re-training to better comply with the Equal Access Rule.
“Today’s announcement is a turning point for the LGBT community in its fight for equal access to fair and affordable housing. This settlement agreement shows how serious HUD is about working to ensure all people and their families can access public housing and crucial housing programs,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Policy Director Maya Rupert, Esq., in a statement. “We hope to work with entities like Bank of America as they bring their policies into compliance with the LGBT Equal Access Rule and train their staff to serve the LGBT community.”