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Christians Conflicted over Housing Rights for Gays

The Department of House and Urban Development is proposing a rule that addresses allegations of housing discrimination and diminished equal access for homosexuals and their families.

On Monday, HUD will publish in the Federal Register a newly proposed rule to allow equal access to HUD-based programs regardless of sexual orientation or gender identification. In a summary of the proposed rule, the government agency states:

"HUD administers programs designed to meet the goal of ensuring decent housing and suitable living environment for all. In pursuit of this goal, it is HUD's responsibility to ensure that all who are otherwise eligible to participate in HUD's programs have equal access to these programs and have the opportunity to compete fairly for HUD funds without being subject to arbitrary exclusion."

Its proposed rule would prevent landlords from inquiring about an applicant's sexuality and/or gender identity. It would also prevent them from basing any decision-making on sexuality and/or gender identity, among other things.

For Dr. Warren Throckmorton, associate professor of Psychology at Grove City College and founder of The Golden Rule Initiative, HUD's proposed rule is reminiscent of remarks made by Baptist televangelist Jerry Falwell.

"I think that [Falwell] made a statement that 'housing and employment are not special rights.' They are civil rights that everyone has," he shared.

The influential Christian right leader made that statement during a 2005 television interview with Republican pundit Tucker Carlson. During the interview, Falwell asserted that he would defend housing rights for homosexuals.

"If I were an attorney, I'd certainly fight for the right of gays or anyone else to be employed or be housed wherever they wished to be housed. I may not agree with the lifestyle. And I don't. But that has nothing do with the civil rights of that member of our, that part of our constituency," he stated.

However, some Christians are apprehensive of the proposed housing rule. Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis for American Family Association said, "This really isn't about housing, this is about government endorsement of homosexuality."

He contended that "homosexuals, on average, have higher levels of education and wealth than anyone else." By that rational, Fischer stated that alleged discrimination against homosexuality is not the true reason for the proposed rule.

According to research cited in theHUD proposal, a 2007 study of housing discrimination found disparate treatment based on homosexuality in 32 out of 120 fair housing tests it conducted.

The study was conducted by Michigan fair housing centers. Testers posed as gay or lesbian home seekers. "Homosexual" testers received more unfavorable treatment on issues such as whether housing was available, the amount of rent, application fees, and levels of encouragement as compared to testers posing as heterosexual home seekers.

Additionally, the report details the story of a North Dakota woman who recounted how she and her partner were evicted once the landlord learned her partner was not a man.

A similar story of a woman who was refused access to visit her partner, who was in grave medical health, in the hospital drove President Barack Obama to sign a memorandum last year directing the Department of Health and Human Services to develop regulations protecting hospital visitation rights.

Those new federal protections took effect this week. Protections include allowing patients to designate which visitors come to see them regardless of sexuality, and full and equal privileges for all visitors.

Fischer contested the need for this federal legislation. He asserted that homosexuals do have the same rights as everyone but this policy and others were based on "imaginary" fears.

Even if concerns of sexuality-based discrimination were true, Fischer stated, such issues within the homosexual community did not qualify as civil rights issues.

"There is no validity to the civil rights issue. Race is immovable, but homosexuality is a choice," asserted Fischer.

Many Christians proclaim that homosexuality is a choice because in the Bible, the human race began with the creation of a heterosexual couple, Adam and Eve. Therefore, "God's design for procreation demanded the union of a man and woman," states the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberities Commission website.

Still, Throckmorton warned that Christians can use the Bible to legislate those who don't believe in it.

"The way you govern a church is through the Bible. The way you govern a nation is through the rule of law," he stressed.

Throckmorton said the rule of law is the Constitution. And the Constitution, he maintained, grants equality to everyone.

To go against the Constitution, he said there has to be "a compelling state interest." In the case for traditional marriage, proponents contend that the government has an interest in protecting marriage between a man and a woman because it leads to natural procreation.

However, in the matter of housing, Throckmorton contended that it is within the government's interest that everyone, regardless of sexuality or gender identity, receive equal access.

"I believe the public square belongs to everyone," he insisted.

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