Washington D.C., Aug 21, 2016 / 03:48 am
According to proposed federal rules, homeless shelters partnering with the government might soon have to compromise the privacy and safety of their clients – and Catholics have voiced their concerns.
“No person should be denied a safe place to live,” counsels for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stated in comments on the proposed rule made in January, in conjunction with other religious groups like the National Catholic Bioethics Center.
Yet, they added, “while the regulations purport to protect health and safety, they fail to advance, and in fact positively undermine, these and other legitimate interests, including expectations of privacy.”
In September, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is expected to rule that homeless shelters receiving federal funds must accept clients as the gender they currently self-identify with, and allow them “equal access” to facilities like beds and bathrooms. The proposed rule is titled “Equal Access in Accordance With an Individual’s Gender Identity in Community Planning and Development Programs.”
Thus, clients who are biologically male but who identify as female would be housed with women; those who are biologically female but identify as male would be housed with men.
One exception to the rule would be if a person identifying as transgender, and meeting certain conditions, requested that they be housed separately. No exception would exist for other clients who lodged complaints, like women who are concerned about their privacy and safety when a biological male is placed in their housing.
Both Catholic Charities USA and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops commented on the proposed rule in January. They expressed serious concerns both for the privacy and safety of homeless persons, as well as the religious freedom of faith-based groups that provide emergency shelter and transitional housing.
For the shelters that rely on shared sleeping quarters and bathrooms in single-sex housing, the proposed rules state that all persons should have equal access here, according to the gender with which they identify.