Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Separate and Unequal - Property Rights Are Important to All


For many weeks I've been blogging about Marriage Equality and how it applies to Property Rights.
There are many real property laws that kick in via marriage, particularly with a community property state such as Texas.

* If one spouse owns a property, that property belongs to BOTH spouses regardless of who’s name is on the title.

* If I bought a house completely in my name, it would still belong 50/50 to my spouse.  That is not the case if you are not able to marry.

* Furthermore, the laws of intestacy (dying without a Will) are greatly affected as a same-sex partner is NOT considered an heir.

* Let's say I married a man in another state where it was legal and we lived in Texas in a home titled in BOTH of our names.  If I died without a Will, my half would belong to my blood family.   If Texas recognized our out-of-state marriage, my half would belong to my spouse (assuming there are no children involved).

My hope is that the Texas Association of Realtors and Texas Real Estate Political Action Committee (TREPAC) will stop endorsing candidates who are against marriage equality and thus, against our property rights.  The top four endorsed candidates are anti-equality candidates.  If any of the candidates opposed the rights of women to own property or integrated communities, TREPAC would rightfully pull the endorsement.  But being homophobic isn't considered abhorrent enough in society, or our Association, to demand better candidates.

For example, TREPAC endorsed candidate Paul Bettencourt attended and spoke at the Harris County Republican Party’s “Stand for Marriage” news conference — billed as a "Rally Against Sodomite Marriage".  Paul Bettencourt believes that we should be able to vote on Civil Rights and if enough people vote then certain types of people don't have to be equal. TREPAC should represent it's LGBT Realtor Members better than this.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

From the President of the National Association of REALTORS®

This evening I received a call from Steve Brown, President of the National Association of Realtors.  He was between flights but wanted to reach out to me personally and let me know my blogs, conversations and posts about the "Religious Freedom" bills which promote discrimination have been on target.  He wanted to personally read me a statement released from the National Association of Realtors to all state level association presidents concerning these bills:

Steve Brown

National Association
The Code of Ethics of the National Association of REALTORS® has guided the professional lives of our members for over a century. For the last four decades REALTORS® have embraced the Code's duty to provide equal professional services to all persons. Initially the Code mirrored the federal fair housing law's protective classes of race, creed, sex and country of national origin. Later, as sensitivity to the evils of discrimination increased and laws changed, color, religion, handicap, and familial status were added to Article Ten of the Code to help REALTORS® fully understand and comply with their ethical and legal duties. More recently, the scope of Article 10 moved beyond the requirements of the federal law, adding sexual orientation and gender identity.

The REALTOR® leaders of the National Association, as well as REALTORS® nationwide, are deeply troubled by legislation proposed in state legislatures that would, if enacted, expressly authorize discrimination in housing or real estate professional services against individuals and groups. Attempts to authorize and encourage discrimination in housing or real estate services under any banner are ethically wrong and wholly inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the REALTORS® Code of Ethics. It's unquestioned that where the Code of Ethics and the law conflict, the Code must give way to the law. But we will continue to tell the public, and legislators should be on notice, that the Code's duties, which often set a higher bar than law or regulation, do and will continue to prohibit discrimination in providing real estate services despite what the law may permit. The Code of Ethics is the cornerstone on which the REALTOR® organization was built, and REALTORS® will never waver in their heartfelt commitment to equal professional services for all.

I am very proud of the National Association of REALTORS® for taking this very brave and public stand against discrimination.  This statement was reviewed by NAR's Professional Standards Committee and Diversity Committee as well as the NAR leadership team.

Needless to say I was overwhelmed and thankful for Steve's time and personal concern that I understand his clear concern about this issue.

We discussed how NAR and the various state political action committees interact.  NAR can not tell the state PACs whom to endorse, however this statement should make it very clear where the organization stands and what values it places on equality.  Steve encouraged me to use NAR's statement in blogs and posts to spread the word.

My hope now is that the state PAC's will take this statement and enforce it with the various candidates.  I also hope that the large number of LGBT Realtors who have been silently waiting for NAR and TREPAC to change on their own, will now step forward and demand the fulfillment of this policy.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Did you realize that the Code of Ethics once required discrimination?

I've been doing research on the Code of Ethics as it applies to Fair Housing and the new "Religious Freedom" Laws.  I still have a lot to learn, but I found some very intersting details about segregation.

In the late 1910's Protective Covenants became popular as a way of protecting white neighborhoods.  The states were barred from setting specific racial boundaries, but private citizens could.  The Supreme Court case, Corrigan v Buckley, resulted from a 1921 agreement between thirty white persons who owned 25 parcels of land. These individuals agreed that no part of any of these properties would be sold, leased, or given to anyone of African American descent.  The court upheld the rights of property owners to protect their land from being sold to non-whites.

It's interesting to see that the Code of Ethics went even farther.  Even if the land was not protected, Realtors could not sell property to those whose presence was detrimental.

ARTICLE 5 (renumbed from 35) of the Code of Ethics from 1924 to the mid-1950's read:
"A Realtor should not be instrumental in introducing a character or use of property for occupancy by members of any race or nationality or individual whose presence will be detrimental to the neighborhood"

Here's an example: "16. Racial Restrictions:  NO property is said Addition shall at any time be sold, conveyed, rented or leased in whole or in part to any person or persons not of the White or Caucasian race.  No person other than one of the White or Caucasian race shall be permitted to occupy any property in said Addition or portion there of or building thereon except a domestic servant actually employed by a person of the White or Caucasian race where the latter is an occupant of such property."

In 1956, due to the affects of the decision in Shelley v. Kraemer, which struck down protective covenants, like the one above, placed on the land, the COE was amended as follows:
ARTICLE 5 from the mid 1950's to 1974
"A realtor should not be instrumental in introducing into a neighborhood a character of property or use which will clearly be detrimental to the property values in that neighborhood."

While they took out race and national decent, the meaning was still clear.  Fair Housing was not our aim. Realtors who actually disagreed could be fined or removed from the local Board due to selling a property to the wrong person.  Can you imagine someone trying this today?

In 1963, California Legislature passed the Rumford Fair Housing Act which outlawed restrictive covenants and the refusal to rent or sell property on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, marital status, or physical disability.

In reaction to the law, a well-funded coalition of REALTORS and landlords was determined to protect white neighborhoods and property values. They immediately began to campaign for a referendum that would amend the state Constitution to protect property owners' ability to deny minorities equal access to housing. Known as Proposition 14, it was passed by 65 percent of the voters.

In 1964 the US Government passed the Federal Fair Housing Act which has been amended over time to be the great instrument of equality we know today.

(This sounds very familiar as California passed gay marriage, Prop 8 was voted in taking it away by popular election, and now the Supreme Court has set that proposition aside.)

I also discovered that a separate organization for African-American agents.  The National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) was formed July 29, 1947, making it the oldest minority trade association in America. NAREB was established by African-American real estate professionals as an alternative for African-Americans who were excluded from the National Association of Realtors.

So as I look at the struggle we are having now to protect LGBT clients and realtors by trying to stem the tide of RPAC / TREPAC endorsements to homophobic candidates, I have to realize that change takes time.  It takes advocates and it takes dedication.  And that the steps being taken to stop change have been tried before, and they have failed.

Code of Ethics Under Attack by RPAC Endorsed Candidates (Updated)

Discrimination is a REALTOR issue.  Article 10 of the Code of Ethics requires Realtors to serve everyone equally.  Our endorsed candidates should uphold these ethics, but currently no one is watching as RPAC and TREPAC endorsed candidates who pass laws that allow open discrimination.  The new "Religious Freedom" Bills open the door for agents and other professionals discriminate against anyone with whom they have a "deeply held religious belief", even in violation of Fair Housing and the Realtor Code of Ethics.  And brokers would be powerless to discipline or fire the agent.


Mississippi is the latest state to pass a version of the "Religious Freedom" bills and send it to their Governor. Their Governor, Phil Bryant, is an RPAC endorsed candidate who now openly supports discrimination.  RPAC endorsed pastor and Mississippi state representative, Andy Gipson, who advocates stoning LGBT people to death per the Bible, is one of the cosponsors of the bill.
(Rep Andy Gipson)

These bills can be found in several states and are working their way across America.  The supporters dub these bills as protecting Religious Freedom, but the end result is that employers and employees serving the public can refuse service to whole classes of people simply if they claim a "Deeply Held Religious Belief" against that group of people.

Currently these laws are aimed at gay and lesbian people.  But the same law could be applied to white people, African-Americans, Asians, Jewish people, Women...just about anyone you didn't like today.

Article 10 of the Realtor Code of Ethics clearly states that REALTORS can not discriminate in their real estate practice nor in their hiring.   However these laws are being passed and supported by REALTOR PAC endorsed Candidates.

Discrimination is a REALTOR issue.  Equal access to housing and home services are REALTOR issues.  Segregation is a REALTOR issue.  We must us our influence and political muscle to fight discrimination.  We must not allow the false cloak of "religious freedom" to allow our Code of Ethics to be compromised and we certainly should not be backing candidates who support and pass such bills.

(Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant endorsed by REALTOR PAC)
Andy Gipson, State Rep, who advocates stoning LGBT people death as per the Bible, endorsed by Realtor PAC
My prior blog...Would You Sell A Home To These Couples...You May Not Have To Soon

This post originally appeared at