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Proposed HUD rule rolls back Obama-era protections for homeless transgender individuals

The Trump administration announced a proposal on Wednesday to allow federally-funded housing services to turn away individuals whose gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. The proposed rule, according to Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, would "better accommodate religious beliefs of shelter providers." 

The proposal rolls back provisions added during the previous administration. In 2016, former President Barack Obama added a section to the Equal Access Rule that "requires all HUD funded housing services to be provided without discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity," according to Carson's statement. 

Under the proposed modification to the rule, shelter providers that "lawfully operate as single-sex or sex-segregated facilities" will be allowed to develop "admissions determinations" for people who have a different gender identity than what they were assigned at birth. 

"Each shelter's policy is required to be consistent with state and local law, must not discriminate based on sexual orientation or transgender status, and may incorporate practical considerations of shelter providers that often operate in difficult conditions," HUD said in a statement. 

"For example," the statement reads, "such policies could be based on biological sex, sex as identified on official government identification, or the current rule's mandate of self-identified gender identity."

Carson said the "important update will empower shelter providers to set policies that align with their missions, like safeguarding victims of domestic violence or human trafficking." 

"Mission-focused shelter operators play a vital and compassionate role in communities across America," he said. "The Federal Government should empower them, not mandate a single approach that overrides local law and concerns. HUD also wants to encourage their participation in HUD programs. That's exactly what we are doing with this rule change."

Under the rule, shelters "must provide" people they turn away with information about other shelters in the area "that can meet their needs." 

However, HUD said that shelters will still have to adhere to the 2012 portion of the Equal Access Rule, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  

Just a few weeks prior to the announcement, on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, the Trump administration erased health care discrimination protections for those who are transgender. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tweeted about the proposed changes Wednesday night, saying, "Ben Carson, where exactly should Black and Brown trans women — who face extraordinarily high rates of unemployment and homelessness at any time, let alone during an economic crisis — go after being turned away from shelters?" 

"In a week where 3 Black trans women have been murdered, the federal government is pushing more people into the street," the organization continued. "This is a dangerous proposal that will embolden violence against transgender people."

Transgender and gender non-binary adults are more likely than cisgender adults to experience unsheltered homelessness, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, and transgender youth "make up a significant portion" of homeless youth in the U.S.

The National Center for Transgender Equality also took to Twitter to comment on the announcement, saying that "getting transgender persons off the street and out of harm's way is a matter of life and death." 

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