This summer, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was asked by an LGBT advocacy group whether the provision of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), 15 U.S.C. § 1691 et seq., that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex extends to protect LGBT people who sought credit. The CFPB has said yes: the ECOA does prohibit discrimination against LGBT people.
Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) had inquired of the CFPB regarding the scope of protection under the ECOA in June. The CFPB recently responded by letter, stating its position that LGBT people were protected under this law. Under the CFPB’s interpretation, discrimination against an LGBT person seeking credit subject to the ECOA—such as a mortgage, car loan, credit card, or small business loan—is prohibited. The letter marked a victory for LGBT advocates, who claimed that their community faced discrimination from lenders for many years.
This letter from the CFPB comes not long after other notable moments for the LGBT community. Perhaps the best known of these was the Supreme Court’s decision in Obgerfell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2071 (2015), that homosexual couples have a constitutional right to marriage. But there has also been action in the executive branch as well. For example, the Departments of Education and Justice in May 2016 issued a joint letter, interpreting Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination to apply to gender identity. The letter said that schools should allow students to use the sex-segregated facilities that correspond to their gender identity. Earlier in the spring, the EEOC filed two lawsuits against employers who allegedly discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation.
Legal changes regarding LGBT rights continue at a rapid pace (at least in comparison to much legal change). Businesses should keep abreast of these changes. They should also evaluate their policies to determine if those policies comply with the latest legal developments. The federal government has shown a particular interest in this issue, and as LGBT issues continue to remain in the news, a report from a consumer to the CFPB could mean legal trouble, or at least bad publicity, for a company.