Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan on Saturday announced new protections for LGBT people during his keynote address at a gay rights conference.

Speaking at the 24th annual National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change taking place in Baltimore, Donovan announced a new anti-discrimination rule.

“Today, I am proud to announce a new Equal Access to Housing Rule that says clearly and unequivocally that LGBT individuals and couples have the rights to live where they choose,” Donovan said.

“This is an idea whose time has come.”

The change bars owners and operators of HUD-funded or -financed housing from inquiring about an applicant's sexual orientation or gender identity.

“If you are denying HUD housing to people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity – actual or perceived – you're discriminating, you're breaking the law, and you will be held accountable.”

The rule also protects LGBT people applying for a mortgage insured by the FHA, which is part of HUD.

The new rule will be published next week and go into effect 30 days later.

“Enacting a rule is not enough,” Donovan added. “Training and education are essential to ensuring rules are followed in communities across the country.

“And so, HUD and its fair housing partners will work to provide guidance and training on the substance of this rule, and the impact it will have for both how we administer HUD programs and also how we enforce our nation's fair housing laws more broadly.” (The video is embedded in the right panel of this page. Visit our video library for more videos.)

Gay rights activists cheered the news, calling it historic.

“This rule is truly historic for the LGBT community and the impact it will have on all our lives cannot be overstated,” Maya Rupert, federal policy director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), said in a statement. “This will improve the lives of countless families and individuals across the country who no longer have to fear being denied housing because of who they are.”