I recently read a snarky column in the conservative Washington Times taking issue with housing being developed for LGBT seniors. But this point struck me as of interest:
In 2013, a federal housing study found that when heterosexual married couples look for a place to live, they are slightly more likely to get a favorable response than gay couples. HUD said that while the gap isn’t huge, it did find more discrimination in states that had laws on anti-gay discrimination than those that didn’t. The five-month national study covered 50 metropolitan markets and took place in 2011.
Could that be right? I googled and came across a June 2013 Huffington Post story that reported:
One of the most interesting findings of the new HUD survey is that discrimination was actually slightly higher against same-sex couples in states with protections for LGBT individuals.
“Several factors could account for this unexpected finding, including potentially low levels of enforcement, housing provider unfamiliarity with state-level protections, or the possibility that protections exist in states with the greatest need for them,” HUD concluded.
Since it’s the liberal jurisdictions that have passed LGBT-inclusive housing measures, it doesn’t really seem likely that “protections exist in states with the greatest need for them,” does it. What is more probable is that once these nondiscrimination statutes are passed, landlords are less likely to rent to same-sex couples because it becomes that much harder to evict them for legitimate reasons if the tenants can claim unlawful discrimination.
Something similar has become evident with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of what used to be called disabilities. Once protected-status individuals are hired, it increases the employer’s liability in the event that they are let go. Which could be why, as pointed out by Walter Olson, labor force participation for the disabled actually declined after the ADA’s passage.
Beware those unintended consequences of well-intentioned legislation.
Another example: Labor advocates push for raising the minimum wage to help low-wage earners, who then have their hours cut or find themselves unemployed because, it turns out, businesses actually don’t operate with excess profit margins that can be redirected, by government decree, to salary budgets. Seattle is just the latest demonstration of this unintended (but actually quite well-documented) consequence.
More. The proposed federal Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is focused on employment discrimination, not housing or public accommodations (while some activists are now advocating that its scope be expanded to include these areas). But the principle of unintended consequences remains very real, which is one reason I remain equivocal about it. The belief that absent a compelling reason for it, businesses are best left to hire, fire and promote as they see fit, is another. And LGBT advocates have failed to produce convincing evidence of systemic employment discrimination.
As for the comparison with race- and gender-based civil rights measures, enforcement of these typically falls back on disparate impact analysis, meaning employers who don’t employee women and racial minorities based on their representation in the population (or at least their representation among qualified job applicants) can be sued by either the EEOC or those who believe they suffered discrimination by not being hired (or promoted). Since there is no convincing count of LGBT people in the population, no one is seriously proposing that LGBT disparate impact be written in to anti-discrimination legislation.
Furthermore. Walter Olson also took note of the housing discrimination finding.