Credit decisions can influence someone's ability to rent or buy a house, secure loans, or go to college—and while there are protections in place to prevent credit discrimination on certain personal characteristics, there's no federal law that explicitly prevents discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
U.S. senator Patty Murray on Wednesday introduced legislation—joined by representative Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, 13 senators and more than 20 representatives—that would explicitly prevent making credit decisions based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It would amend the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which currently prevents discrimination in credit based on "race, color, religion, national original, sex, marital status, or age."
As the law stands right now, discrimination against the LGBTQ community could still be illegal. In late August, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau responded to an inquiry from Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders about whether the CFPB views outlawing credit discrimination based on "sex" to include sexual orientation or gender identity; the answer was yes, said director Richard Cordray, in a seven-page letter outlining extensive case law.
"There is no apparent reason why the same reasoning that the Supreme Court and the courts of appeals have applied to discrimination on the basis of 'sex' under Title VII would not equally apply to discrimination on the basis of 'sex' under ECOA as well," Cordray wrote. He pointed to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting "discrimination based on actual or perceived nonconformity with sex-based or gender-based stereotypes," which in earlier precedents has been interpreted to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Murray's bill would, however, make it explicitly illegal if there was ever any argument or interpretation of the ECOA. Currently only 15 states, including Washington state and DC prevent credit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“No one should ever fear discrimination when trying to secure a roof over their head or seek a high quality education, simply because of who they love or who they are,” Murray said in a released statement. “By coming together to ensure LGBTQ individuals are protected from this discriminatory practice once and for all, we can take an important step forward in our country and send a very clear message against President Trump’s anti-LGBTQ agenda.”