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Proposed Obama Rule on Transgender Persons Could Affect Homeless Shelters

Emergency shelters are the next target for regulations elevating gender identity over health, safety, privacy, and religious liberty concerns.

Emergency shelters are the next target for regulations elevating gender identity over health, safety, privacy, and religious liberty concerns.

On Nov. 20, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provided notice of a proposed new rule, “Equal Access in Accordance With an Individual’s Gender Identity in Community Planning and Development Programs.”

This proposed rule, if implemented, would endanger religious liberty and create concerns for the privacy and safety of our most vulnerable citizens: the homeless and other people seeking emergency shelter for the night.

Specially Protected Classes

In 2012, the Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a rule elevating sexual orientation and gender identity as specially protected classes under HUD-assisted and insured housing programs. This rule, however, allowed temporary emergency shelters to take sex into account when providing shared sleeping areas or bathrooms.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s proposed rule would rescind this commonsense exemption that protects the faith, privacy, and safety concerns of those in shelters.

The rule would require emergency shelters to “provide transgender persons and other persons who do not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth with access to programs, benefits, services, and accommodations in accordance with their gender identity.”

This means that a man who comes to a homeless shelter and self-identifies as a woman must be provided access to shared women’s bedrooms and bathrooms, regardless of the privacy concerns of the women in the shelter. The same would hold true for a woman who self-identifies as a man.

No Grounds to Deny

The rule would not allow shelters to consider the person’s sex as indicated on identity documents when determining where to place the person. Even a single-sex emergency shelter can have no basis for denying someone access to shared bedroom and bathroom facilities “solely because the provider possesses identity documents indicating a sex different than the client’s or potential client’s gender identity.”

This would give a woman’s shelter no grounds to deny a man dressed as a woman, and whose identification documents confirm they are male, if the person self-identifies as a woman. This is because the rule defines “gender identity” as “the gender with which a person identifies, regardless of the sex assigned at birth” and also regardless of “perceived gender identity.”

Under the new rule, if a person identifies as male, female, neither, both, or some combination of male and female, they get special privileges that would be enforceable regardless of their biology or other people’s moral, privacy, or safety concerns.

Safety Concerns

The safety of transgender persons seeking accommodations in shelters is a genuine concern. But so is the safety of all other persons in the shelter. The proposed regulation would only allow exceptions in cases where the transgender person him or herself requested an exception. The rule puts the choice entirely in the hands of the transgender person, even in instances where…

 if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.


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