Know Your Rights: Housing Issues


Both citizens and non-citizens alike have rights under the United States Constitution. The Fifth Amendment gives every person the right to remain silent – that is, to not answer questions asked by a police officer or government agent. The Fourth Amendment restricts the government’s power to enter and search a person's home or workplace, although there are many exceptions and new laws have expanded the government’s power to conduct surveillance, as well as the authority for the police to search a person or belongings. The First Amendment protects a person's right to speak freely and to advocate for social change. These Constitutional rights are absolute, and cannot be suspended – even during wartime.1


Housing discrimination against transgender and gender-non conforming persons is a severe problem. In the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 19 percent of the 6,450 respondents reported having been refused a home or apartment and 11 percent reported being evicted because of their gender identity/expression.2 Most notably, 19 percent of respondents also reported experiencing homelessness as a result of their gender identity/expression with the majority of them reporting either harassment, difficulty in access, or sexual assault when attempting to access homeless shelters. Transgender persons had less than half the national rate of home ownership: 32% reported owning their home compared to 67% of the general population. Between 20 percent and 40 percent of homeless youth and runaways in the United States identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning (LGBTQ).3

  1. Know Your Rights!: What to Do if Questioned by Police, FBI, Customs Agents or Immigration Officers, August 2004, California: National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, and the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Last visited August 1, 2012. 

  2. Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Survey, National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 2011, Last visited August 1, 2012. 

  3. Rudy Estrada and Jody Marksamer, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Young People in State Custody: Making the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems Safe for All Youth Through Litigation, Advocacy and Education, Temple L. Rev., Vol. 7, Issue 2, Summer 2006, Last visited August 1, 2012.