I just wrapped up a busy few days as we hosted our sixth annual NAGLREP Conference in Palm Springs. And while the event was incredible, the speakers great, and we had record attendance, every time attendees got together informally, in learning breakouts or in General Sessions, there were expressions of concern.
We gathered in Palm Springs, one of the nation’s top resort communities, knowing that on Tuesday, Oct. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court would begin hearing three cases involving the legal right of companies to fire employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
You read that correctly. In 2019, there is a possibility that it will become legal to fire an LGBT individual for being who they are.
I thought about this during the Conference when we heard from Judy and Dennis Shepard who began the Matthew Shepard Foundation more than 20 years ago. The foundation honors their son, who was killed in one of our nation’s most notorious hate crimes. They are delightful, thoughtful and caring, and have embraced their status as the unofficial “Mom and Dad” of the LGBT community. They inspired all of us to keep working hard to showcase how discrimination of any kind should not be tolerated. Their words about how hatred can destroy lives touched all of us.
I thought about it when Coldwell Banker D’Ann Harper, REALTORS® agent Jamie Zapata and her team of three transgender agents took the stage to talk about how welcomed they have been in the real estate industry.
I thought of this when Sotheby’s International Realty CMO Kevin Thompson saluted those who made our NAGLREP Top LGBT+ Agent List.
I thought of it when I placed the pop-up signs around the Riviera Hotel that included all of our partners—some of the largest and most powerful real estate brands, companies, lenders and supporting businesses.
And I thought about it when we discussed the Equality Act, which passed in the House of Representatives earlier this year and now awaits Senate approval. This bill, which was first written in the 1970s, would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in a wide range of areas including housing. The Equality Act had never before even made it to a Congressional vote, let alone pass as it did in May.
You read that correctly too. A renter could currently be evicted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact, only 20 states have protections for the LGBT community.
The LGBT community has enjoyed so many positives over the last several years including the right to marry. But with every step forward, we also fear stepping backwards.
Earlier this year, NAGLREP released its annual LGBT Real Estate Report. We worked closely with Freddie Mac in sharing that LGBT homeownership rates stand at only 49 percent, compared to the 64 percent overall U.S. number.
Obviously, the more we can bring that number up, the more the REALTOR® community benefits.
The report also pointed out that concerns about short- and long-term financial security, including jobs, are routinely cited by LGBTs as reasons why they remain on the homeownership sidelines.
If you are one of those people with a desire to become a homeowner and working hard to save for a down payment, what are you to think about the society we are currently living in?
- The Supreme Court is hearing three cases that may give companies the right to fire you because of your sexual orientation or gender identity.
- The housing discrimination you fear is currently legal at the federal level.
- Thirty states have absolutely no protections of any kind against the discrimination you might get for being LGBT.
Believe me, our goal to increase LGBT homeownership does not need headwinds. Those who are already nervous do not need any real or perceived deterrent.
So if you think these Supreme Court cases or the Equality Act have no bearing on you or your business, you are wrong. They matter.
Jeff Berger is the founder of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP). For more information, please visit www.naglrep.com.