Just one month ago, voters in Houston (the fourth largest city in the US) rejected a measure to provide non-discrimination protections for its residents. Although the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance would have provided protections for its city’s LGBT community, it would have also provided protections against discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion or physical ability. Without local protections, those experiencing discrimination in Houston are required to file federal charges instead of having local remedies. Of course, sexual orientation and gender identity are still not protected under federal non-discrimination laws, so for those in the LGBT community there is not even federal recourse.
Washingtonians are fortunate to live in a state with full non-discrimination protections. However, these laws alone do not protect us unless they are enforced. In 2014, the Seattle Office for Civil Rights conducted fair housing tests in Seattle. In a stunning set of findings, evidence of discriminatory practices occurred in a majority of the tests performed:
Some of these discriminatory practices included:
Legally, we have made significant strides forward, but our realities and experiences have not yet caught up to the laws on our books. If you, or someone you know, has recently experienced discrimination, there are resources that can help.