(Washington, D.C., July 16, 2014)—Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a final rule that extends crucial non-discrimination protections to transgender and gender non-conforming participants in many USDA services and programs.

The rule amends the existing USDA non-discrimination rule, 7 C.F.R. 15(d), to add “gender identity” as a prohibited basis for discrimination in programs or activities conducted by USDA. The regulation already includes prohibitions against discrimination based on sexual orientation and marital status.

This regulation governs all USDA “conducted programs,” which refers to those programs administered directly by the agency with no third-party involvement. This includes crucial loan programs like those designed to help low-income families buy and maintain homes in rural communities.

This amended regulation represents the latest USDA effort to make its programs and services more accessible to the LGBTQ community. Recently, NCLR and USDA partnered to launch the #RuralPride campaign to increase awareness of the needs of LGBTQ people living in rural communities and small towns.

Said USDA Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights Dr. Joe Leonard: “This rule is a reflection of the strong and longstanding commitment held by USDA and the Obama administration to serve all people and their families living in rural communities, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Added NCLR Policy Director, Maya Rupert: “LGBTQ people are a part of every community in this country—including rural communities served by USDA—and we are grateful to our partners at USDA for ensuring that their crucial services and programs are accessible to all people. We look forward to continuing to work with USDA to make sure that no one is left behind in this fight for equality.”

Read the rule.