January 31, 2012 ( – The federal government will publish regulations next month requiring all religious groups involved in government-assisted housing facilities to accept homosexual couples and transgender individuals – a change effected in part by including homosexual couples in the rule’s definition of the word “family.”

The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed a new rule on Thursday that defines “family” as at least two people living together “regardless of marital status, or actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity,” in addition to the surviving partners of AIDS victims who had previously been housed under HUD’s AIDS housing program.

“HUD’s proposed rule clarifies that families, otherwise eligible for HUD programs, may not be excluded because one or more members of the family may be an LGBT individual, have an LGBT relationship, or be perceived to be such an individual or in such relationship,” stated federal officials in a release accompanying the proposed rule last year.

The rule also specified that borrowers cannot be denied FHA-insured mortgage financing based on their “sexual orientation or gender identity,” and that owners and operators of HUD-assisted housing are disallowed from inquiring about such characteristics.

The ACLU on Saturday celebrated the fact that the new rules will require Christian groups involved in HUD housing to comply with the mores against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Catholic and Christian churches are often involved in building the low-income housing as a ministry, or in distributing section 8 vouchers.

“Of critical importance, the rule will require all organizations that operate HUD-assisted or HUD-insured housing facilities to serve LGBT Americans looking for shelter and housing—including religious organizations,” wrote the ACLU’s Ian Thompson.

“As a coalition of more than 30 civil rights organizations (including the ACLU) wrote to HUD last year, once a religious organization chooses to provide housing services or programs with the aid of federal funds and benefits from HUD, it cannot shield itself from traditional safeguards that protect civil rights in the provision of those services.”

According to the ACLU, the rule will go into effect next month.

The Huffington Post noted that the proposal is of a piece with the preferred method of gay lobbyists, who hope to bypass the democratic process by harnessing the executive power of the sympathetic Obama administration.

“The HUD proposal marks the latest in a string of Obama administration attempts to enhance gay rights through federal regulation, which may offer a way forward for advocates who worry that legislative efforts have little hope of success this year,” wrote the Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel.