(CNN) - A new study finds same sex couples are being discriminated against when seeking rental apartments online.
When inquiring about rental apartments via email, gay and lesbian couples received almost 16 percent fewer responses than their heterosexual counterparts, according to a study by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The research was based on more than 6,800 email correspondence tests in 50 U.S. cities.
This was the first nationwide look at housing discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Researchers sent two emails to landlords who were advertising one bedroom apartments and inquired about the unit's availability.
One email was sent from a heterosexual couple referring to a "husband" or "wife" by name, while the other email was sent from a gay or lesbian couple and used the term "partner," again providing both people's names.
In some cases, landlords would tell heterosexual couples that the apartment was still available, but tell same sex couples that it was off the market.
In other instances, the landlord would just not respond to the same sex couples.
The Federal Fair Housing Act is meant to ensure equal access to housing, but it does not offer protections with regard to sexual orientation.
Twenty states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation to prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians.