The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has fined Bank of America $7,500 after it refused to provide a lesbian couple with a mortgage loan because they were not married.
Bank of America employees had originally told the couple they would qualify for a government backed loan if one of the women and her partner’s mother signed for the loan.
However the day before they were supposed to settle the arrangement with the bank they were told that Bank of America could not consider the signers to be legally related because the couple were not married.
The $7,500 fine was the result of a negotiated settlement between Bank of America and the Department of Housing and Urban Development in which the bank also agreed to ‘remind Applicable Employees that they are prohibited from discriminating against applicants of FHA-insured loans on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.’
‘Additionally, Bank of America shall update its existing fair lending training program for Applicable Employees to include information on the Equal Access Rule’s prohibition against discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,’ the settlement read.
‘This agreement demonstrates that [the Department of Housing and Urban Development] will vigorously enforce its Equal Access rule and pursue lenders that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status,’ said the department’s general legal council Helen Kanoysky.
‘By the same token, Bank of America should be commended for stepping up and taking immediate corrective action after [the department] notified Bank of America of the violation.’
The department’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, John Trasviña, said the Equal Access Rule was something lenders needed to take seriously.
‘The … Equal Access Rule means just what it says: one’s sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status is not a legitimate basis on which to deny a mortgage,’ Trasviña said.
‘Members of the housing industry should take note of this settlement agreement.’
The agreement is the first enforcement action taken against a lender involving the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s rule ensuring that its core housing programs be open to all eligible persons, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.
One of the bank’s senior executives of its corporate and investment baking division, Julia Hoggett, is a lesbian and recently spoke to GSN about her experiences as an openly gay woman in the banking world.
Bank of America took part in a global workplace summit on LGBT equality in London in November.