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Federal housing rights might be extended to gays

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is trying to add discrimination against sexual preference to its list of housing rights violations.

And it wants you -- the public -- to help shape its first-ever, nationwide study on housing discrimination against the LGBT community (gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender). Ideas can be sent to HUD's "online suggestion box" here.

For example, HUD said, how would a "tester" hint to the landlord or seller that he or she is LGBT? The suggestion box is not intended for complaints, HUD officials said, but those can be filed at here.

Michelle Santantonio, executive director of the Long Island Housing Services, said she doesn't recall her group doing any undercover testing on LGBT discrimination but believes problems exist on Long Island and are underreported, just like other housing discrimination.

"People aren't aware of what support they can get to challenge discrimination or because they are fearful of coming forward and may not be 'out'," she said.

In the past 20 years, Santantonio estimated, about 15 LGBT cases have been reported to the Bohemia-based nonprofit, which investigates housing discrimination and files complaints. People are denied housing or harassed or denied services due to their sexual preferences, she said.

In one case, a housing site superintendent denied services to someone who was gay, Santantonio said, and the nonprofit filed a complaint with the state division of human rights. A settlement was offered and the complaint withdrawn, but the renter had decided to move because he didn't feel comfortable there, she recalled.

"People often don't follow through," the nonprofit head said. "Either they're feeling too uncomfortable, or they don't want to assert their rights and try to remain where they've been made to feel unwelcome."

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