Bank of America Fined for Refusing Lesbian Couple Loan

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Monday January 7, 2013

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced on Wednesday that Bank of America has settled a discrimination claim filed by a lesbian couple from Florida who were denied a mortgage loan,

LGBTQ Nation reported that, according to the claim, the two women were denied the loan because of their sexual orientation and because they are not married, something they can't do in Florida.

The website points out that this is the first time HUD has enforced "action taken under its recently enacted LGBT Equal Access Rule." The rule "represents one of the most significant federal nondiscrimination efforts ever taken on behalf of the LGBT community" and went into effect on March 5, 2012.

The measure prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and martial status in public housing and HUD's housing programs. This includes the eligibility for a mortgage loan by the Federal Housing Administration.

Officials from HUD said the couple was refused a FHA-insured mortgage by BoA despite working with the bank's employees for weeks on loan applications. The organization even says that the women were assured BoA would grant them the loan but a day before closing, officials from the bank denied them the mortgage because the couple was not married.

"Today's announcement is a turning point for the LGBT community in its fight for equal access to fair and affordable housing," Maya Rupert, director of policy for The National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement. "This settlement agreement shows how serious HUD is about working to ensure all people and their families can access public housing and crucial housing programs."

BoA settled the claim, and will have to paid HUD $7,500 for breaking the rule. The bank also agreed to alerting its residential mortgage loan originators, processors and underwriters of the settlement.

HUD General Counsel Helen Kanovsky said the "agreement demonstrates that HUD will vigorously enforce its Equal Access rule and pursue lenders that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status." She added, "By the same token, BOA should be commended for stepping up and taking immediate corrective action after HUD notified BOA of the violation."