The LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance is asking the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), the Montana Association of REALTORS®, the Missoula Organization of REALTORS® and Windermere Real Estate to disassociate themselves from a Missoula REALTOR® based on what it says are discriminatory actions.
According to reports, the incident took place this past June when Missoula, Montana-area pastor and part-time real estate agent Brandon Huber withdrew his church from a food-assistance program that distributed fliers promoting PRIDE week and LGBTQ rights, saying it was contrary to the church’s biblical doctrine.
A member of the public later filed a complaint against Huber to the Missoula Organization of REALTORS® citing a violation of the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics. Since then, Huber, facing the ethics complaint for engaging in “hate speech,” has filed suit to void the REALTORS® ethics rule, saying it’s too vague to be enforced, and that it discriminates against Huber for exercising his religious beliefs.
The lawsuit states Huber could be fined $5,000 by the REALTORS® group and barred from using its multiple listing service, making it virtually impossible for him to continue as an agent. The organization has ordered Huber to attend an ethics hearing, which is scheduled for Dec. 2. According to reports earlier this month, the organization was not commenting on the lawsuit.
Regarding the complaint, Huber’s attorney, Matthew Monforton, stated, “The REALTORS®’ hate-speech rule is intended to purge Christians from the real estate business. If you are a Christian who believes the way that tens of millions of American Christians do that homosexuality is wrong, there is simply no way that you can participate as a REALTOR®, with the kind of hate-speech prohibition that exists.”
He later told Billings-based radio station KBUL that “we need all hands on deck here. And…if we don’t stand up to this, the LGBT woke mafia is going to come after all of us.”
In response, LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance Chief Executive Officer Ryan Weyandt and National President John Thorpe sent a letter on Nov. 17 to newly installed NAR President Leslie Rouda Smith regarding what it says is “Huber’s discriminatory actions and his attorney’s hateful comments against the LGBTQ+ community.”
“While the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance greatly appreciates the ongoing support from NAR, numerous state, regional and local REALTOR® associations and the industry’s increasing work to welcome diversity, equity and inclusion, moments like these demand action,” Weyandt said in a statement. “The LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance has an obligation to ensure that our community is protected from any forms of discrimination committed within the housing industry. It is our belief that Huber’s behavior, along with the comments from his attorney, should not be treated lightly and represent a clear violation of the Code of Ethics. They warrant Huber’s immediate removal as a REALTOR® and membership of all related REALTOR® groups. We have also encouraged Windermere Real Estate to end its affiliation with him.”
Smith responded to Weyandt and Thorpe’s letter writing, in part:
“The National Association of REALTORS® has a deep commitment to non-discrimination, and we take any alleged violation of the Code of Ethics very seriously. Article 10 in the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the National Association of REALTORS®, and specifically Standard of Practice 10-5, is designed to achieve this commitment.
“As you know, to uphold our aims, we rely on the National Association’s longstanding and well-established governance process for handling such allegations when a complaint has been filed. The authority to enforce the Code is specifically delegated to local and state REALTOR® associations acting through their Grievance Committee and Hearing Panels, who thoroughly review all such matters. In this case, the local association’s grievance committee initiated a hearing process based on the allegations. All hearings are held in a manner which is fair to all parties, and care is taken to ensure that the rights and interests of all parties are protected.”
Weyandt, Thorpe and Smith pointed to NAR’s Code of Ethics, which governs approximately 1.5 million REALTORS® and has several passages that prohibit discrimination including:
“REALTORS® shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity. REALTORS® shall not be parties to any plan or agreement to discriminate against a person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“REALTORS® must not use harassing speech, hate speech, epithets or slurs” against members of those protected classes.”
“We have obviously supported NAR’s mission to remove discrimination for our industry,” Weyandt said. “It is a tall order yet NAR, with more than 1.5 million members, has the size, scope and stature to make a difference in our society. When a REALTOR® chooses to openly and repeatedly express negative views on the LGBTQ+ community, or any other diverse sector, we do not believe they should have the right to be a member. It’s that simple.”
LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance launched in June 2020 and has grown to become one of the largest LGBTQ+ and ally trade groups in the nation with nearly 2,000 members.
Stay tuned to RISMedia for updates. This is a developing story.