Buying a home is intimidating enough: It's a huge investment, and one that carries many risks. But for some LGBT homebuyers, a lack of legal protections can make the process even more fraught. That's one reason real estate website Trulia today launched a new feature called Local Legal Protections to assist buyers in their home search.
While federal housing and employment laws prevent discrimination on the basis of things like sex, race, age, color, religion, national origin, and familial status (with admittedly uneven results), there are no such nationwide protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia have laws that protect LGBT rights in housing, employment, and public accommodation (check out this map by the nonprofit Movement Advancement Project, which supplied data to Trulia, to see if your state is among them).
Some individual cities or counties offer local protections as well. But Trulia estimates that nearly half of all U.S. homes are in communities with no such protections. The Local Legal Protections feature aims to make sense of this patchwork of protections — and to bring attention to the inconsistencies and gaping holes still within it.
For any home on the site, users can see what protections exist in the area, what they mean, and if they're provided at the state, county, or city level. Trulia says it's just a starting point, but one more insight to help home buyers better understand a community.
"Choosing a home is one of the most significant decisions in people's lives," said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project, in a press release. "This groundbreaking feature will help LGBT people look not only for the right home, but also the right community."
Of course, as important as legal protections are, they don't always stop people from acting like a-holes. A 2013 HUD study of same-sex housing discrimination found that LGBT apartment seekers were discriminated against about 15% of the time — and, contrary to expectations, unfair treatment was slightly more common in places where LGBT protections were already in place.
A more recent study by Suffolk University performed in the Boston area — where statewide LGBT protections exist — found that transgender and gender-nonconforming renters received discriminatory treatment 61% of the time compared to test groups.
Still, at least those encountering discrimination have some recourse in areas where legal protections exist. As Trulia says, it's a start.