Realtors adopt non-discrimination policy

All members of North America’s largest trade organization must comply with amended code of ethics that now includes protection based on sexual orientation

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

FAIR HOUSING | From left, Texas Pride Realty’s Bob McCranie and Leslie Wilson, Oregon Realtor Steve Strode, NAGLREP founder and Executive Director Jeff Berger, NAGLREP Director and Legislative Liaison Eric Kodner at the National Association of Realtors national meeting in New Orleans earlier this month after an amendment to the trade association’s code of ethics to include sexual orientation passed. (Courtesy Bob McCranie)

A suburban Dallas homeowner once posted this sign: “For Sale by Owner. No Queers.”

Within the city of Dallas, housing discrimination has been illegal since 2002, and if the ordinance had been in effect at the time, the homeowner could have been fined $500 for violating the city’s nondiscrimination housing ordinance.

But while some found the sign offensive, nothing was done.

The sign is now in the archives at Resource Center Dallas.

And since the National Association of Realtors voted to amend its code of ethics to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation at its November meeting, that homeowner could no longer receive help from any of NAR’s more than 1 million members. Any Realtor showing that house would be violating NAR’s code of ethics.

NAR is the largest trade organization in North America.

When the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals organized in 2007, passing this amendment to NAR’s code of ethics was an original goal.

A NAGLREP board member brought the amendment to the Wisconsin state association. That organization then officially introduced it to the national organization.

In May, NAR’s board of directors approved the amendment, which sent it for final approval by a vote by the general membership.

The amendment passed easily on a voice vote at the national meeting in New Orleans earlier this month. By NAR rules, since the proposal did not pass unanimously, opposition could call for a paper ballot, and an Arkansas Realtor who opposed the measure did just that.

But even with the secret vote, the measure passed with 93 percent of the 25,000 convention attendees voting in favor.

According to Jeff Berger, founder of NAGLREP, the only opposition that was voiced concerned federal fair housing laws that do not include sexual orientation.

“But there wasn’t much resistance,” he said.

Still, opposition was expressed on the group’s blog, Berger said, citing the usual biblical and religious excuses to discriminate. He pointed out that those Realtors writing anti-gay comments on the blog would now be considered to be in violation of the organization’s code of ethics and could be sanctioned.

Berger called the code the industry’s own mini-ENDA.

“Clients can’t be discriminated against,” he said. “Realtors can’t discriminate against each other.”

And everyone who works in an office with a Realtor designation now is bound by non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation.

Should someone violate the code, Berger said they could be brought before NAR’s grievances committee. If found in violation, they risk anything from a warning to losing their membership and the Realtor designation.

Jeff Updike of RE/MAX Urban in Downtown Dallas serves on the board of NAR.

“I don’t know that it’s going to have a huge impact,” Updike said, but he wasn’t downplaying the significance of the new rule.

Updike believes that any sort of discrimination is just bad business and that any agent that does discriminate will probably not survive in the competitive industry.

Berger said that in the last six months, 10 cases of housing discrimination against gays and lesbians have been documented. An older case in Dallas involving an agent refusing to sell property in Oak Lawn because of the area’s connection to the LGBT community ended with that agent leaving the business. Her license status is “suspended.”

NAGLREP has also been asked to prepare a “best practices” chart for Realtors when doing business with the LGBT community.

“We will be presenting it to NAR at the midyear meeting in Washington, D.C. in May 2011,” Berger said.

The last time the NAR code of ethics was changed, Berger said, was in 1988 to include families with children and people with handicaps. That change was made in conjunction with a change to federal law.

“Our next goal is to see the federal Fair Housing law amended,” Berger said.

Updike would also like federal housing regulations to match the new industry standard. He said he expects NAR to support without lobbying for that change.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Waiting for provisional ballots in non-discrimination measures in Bowling Green

The right-wing effort failed on at least one of the measures to repeal two non-discrimination ordinances in Bowling Green. The margins are very close, but our side won one and is waiting for provisional ballots in the other:

An attempt to repeal two city ordinances that expanded anti-discrimination protections had mixed results in Bowling Green Tuesday.

By a narrow margin in unofficial results, voters upheld an ordinance that expands the list of protected classes in the city’s fair housing code to include sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, and marital status, among others.

But by a similarly slim margin, voters repealed a second ordinance that protected those same groups from discrimination in employment, at business establishments and educational institutions, and for city services.

I’m hearing that there are 500 provisional ballots still to be counted. Most of those are Bowling Green students. So, this could still be a double victory.

The Toledo FOX channel reported that the anti-gay forces thought they had won:

The victory party was short lived Tuesday night for the opposition to the anti-discrimination ordinances in Bowling Green.

While the initial “100 percent” of the votes on the Wood County Board of Elections’ Web site showed both ordinances being handily rejected by voters, those results were changed around 11 p.m. when early voting numbers were added in.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

This is why heterosexuals must demand passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would prohibit discrimination in employment based on an individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.  Federal law already prohibits employers from discriminating based on race, color, religion, sex, physical disabilities, national origin or genetic information about an applicant, employee, or former employee.  Yet it is still legal in 38 states to fire or refuse to hire someone based on their gender identity.  Likewise it is still legal in 30 states to fire or refuse to hire someone based on their sexual orientation.

Because it is lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people who suffer from the employment discrimination that ENDA addresses, the legislation is generally portrayed as only benefiting LGBTs and its passage as a sort of “gift” from the mostly heterosexual Congress to LGBT people.  This is an unfortunate distortion.

While it is true that LGBT people are in dire need of the protections ENDA would provide, ENDA is in the best interest of heterosexuals too.  And I’m not just talking about heterosexuals facing employment discrimination because they are perceived to be gay.  The truth of the matter is that everyone benefits when the best person is hired for the job.

This was brought home to me earlier this week when I heard that Judge Anne Levinson was confirmed as the new civilian auditor for the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability by Seattle City Council’s Public Safety and Education Committee.  Her qualifications and commitment to excellence in public service are clear in her distinguished civil service resume.  The Stranger‘s Riya Bhattacharjee summarized:

A Seattle Municipal Court judge from 1999 to 2001 where she dealt with criminal cases, Levinson developed and presided over one of the country’s first mental health courts. She served as chief of staff and then deputy mayor for Mayor Rice and was legal counsel in both the Rice and Royer administrations. Levinson also chaired the Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission-a quasi-judicial body that regulated private telecommunications and energy companies. She is one of the four owners of the Seattle Storm. Levinson was also part of the Seattle Police Chief Search Committee. “It’s important that the chief fosters an environment that actively investigates misconducts and implements reforms when necessary so that the public has respect and confidence in the police,” she says. ‘We have a mutual goal here of treating all citizens equally.” Levinson underscores the importance of encouraging community policing in Seattle. “It’s also important to have early warning systems to identify potential problems,” she says.”

Not insignificantly, Shaun Knittel at Seattle Gay News reminds us that Levinson was one of the state’s first openly LGBT public officials.  Folks around the Blend will recall that as Chair of Washington Families Standing Together, Levinson lead the Approve Referendum 71 campaign to victory in 2009, making Washington the first state in the nation whose electorate ratified an LGBT family recognition (domestic partnership) law at the polls.

So yes, Judge Levinson is a highly-qualified and respected public servant.  She is also a lesbian.  We here in Seattle are protected by several layers of anti-discrimination law at the city, county and state levels, so sexual orientation wasn’t a factor in the City’s decision to hire her.  But I can’t help but wonder if Judge Levinson had applied for the same job in Tampa, say, or Salt Lake City, whether her appointment wouldn’t have been summarily rejected due to a characteristic that has no bearing on her ability to bring excellence to the job.  Such an outcome would not only have been a loss to her as an individual, but to the predominantly heterosexual population she sought to so ably serve.  When heterosexuals discriminate against an LGBT person in employment when the LGBT applicant is the best person for the job, they’re shooting themselves in the foot.

A video of Judge Levinson’s confirmation hearing is below the fold.
If you watch the video directly on Seattle Channel’s website, you can jump to the pertinent part of the video by clicking on “Appointment of Judge Anne Levinson”.  Otherwise, click ahead to about the 24:45 mark.

Cross-posted at Washblog.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

Texas Transgender Summit attendees on Nikki Araguz case: Littleton v. Prange is bunk

Dozens of individuals and organizations meeting at the Second Annual Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit in Houston issued a joint statement Thursday on the Nikki Araguz case. In case you missed it, Araguz is the transgender widow of firefighter Thomas Araguz III, who died in the line of duty earlier this month. Thomas Araguz’s is family is suing Nikki Araguz in an effort to prevent her from receiving death benefits, alleging that the marriage was invalid. Below is the full text of the statement. For a list of signatories, go here.

HOUSTON, Texas (July 22, 2010) — We, the attendees of the Second Annual Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit, issue this statement to demonstrate our support for Mrs. Nikki Araguz and to call attention to her plight and that of all transgender people in the state of Texas.

Mrs. Nikki Araguz legally married a man, and her marriage has been recognized under the laws of the state of Texas. Nikki’s husband, a fireman in Wharton County, tragically was killed in the line of duty, and now other parties are attempting to use the courts to have her marriage legally overturned in an effort to deny her inheritance and insurance.

These parties are claiming that Nikki is not legally a woman under Texas law. Nikki’s opponents are attempting to use an obscure Texas case, Littleton v. Prange (1999), to declare that her marriage should be invalid. The Littleton case says that a person’s gender is determined by chromosomes, not physical attributes. The Littleton case was decided to deny a transgender woman her right to bring a wrongful death suit on behalf of her husband — even though Littleton had legally changed her gender and had been legally married in Texas.

The Littleton case was wrongfully decided at the time, and if taken literally stands for the proposition that a transgender person cannot marry anyone, of either gender, under Texas law. Clearly, this is wrong. Denying anyone the right to marry whom they love is a violation of the most basic freedoms under our laws. To deny the validity of an existing, legal marriage, after one of the spouses has died, as justification for the redistribution of inheritance and insurance, is abhorrent to the values of common decency, fair play, and justice that most Texans hold dear.

We, the attendees of this Summit, extend our heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Araguz, and call for the swift dismissal of this lawsuit so that Mrs. Araguz may be left to mourn her loss in private without distraction or worry for her financial stability.

If necessary, we also call for the courts to consider the Littleton case superseded by the recent changes to the Texas Family Code that recognize a court ordered gender change as definitive proof of identity.

Sadly, discrimination against people because of either their gender identity or expression is common. There are few laws in the state of Texas to address this need. The purpose of our Summit is to find ways to help people confront and overcome the issues now facing all transgender people in Texas and, tragically, Mrs. Nikki Araguz.

—  John Wright

‘Christian’ group plans to attend Fort Worth council meeting tonight to protest city’s ‘homosexual/transgender agenda’

Earlier today, I got an e-mail from Pastor Curtis Smith with Trinity Metropolitan Community Church in Arlington, saying that a group calling itself “Believers Stand United” had been circulating an e-mail urging all the God-fearing Christians in the Metroplex to head over to Cowtown tonight for the Fort Worth City Council meeting to speak out against an impending “major move by the city to promote and implement a homosexual/transgender agenda in the city.”

The e-mail talked about the 20 recommendations made by the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid last June, and warned that the city manager “has started implementation of these without public discussion.”

(Just for the record, most of the items on the list required no action by the City Council. The only one that did that has been implemented was the amendment of the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to include protections for transgender people, and that happened after a marathon council session last year during which PLENTY of people had the chance to speak against it.)

The-email said: “All of these recommendations would be funded by your dollars as a taxpayer in Fort Worth and would give this group of citizens’ special status and privileges.” Hmm. We haven’t heard that “special privileges” argument before, have we?

The e-mail continued:

“Several churches and ministries are planning to attend the Fort Worth City Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, July 13. The purpose of this meeting is two fold. First, to have the Christian community’s voice heard with regards to the cities plans to promote the homosexual lifestyle with taxpayer dollars. Second, to show support for our Police Department and to those officers who serve the city.

“We would like your involvement and participation in this meeting. Invite and bring as many people as you can to the city council meeting. Several pastors and ministers form the community as well from our ministry will be addressing the city council. The city council meeting starts at 7pm, but I would encourage you to get there early to ensure a seat. Click Here for directions to City Hall.

“There is a move in this country to redefine marriage. We as believers need to stand up in love and have our voices heard on this issue. Numbers matter; even if you do not live in Fort Worth your presence at this meeting will have a profound affect. Again, the meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July13 at 7pm in City Hall – 1000 Throckmorton St, Fort Worth 76102. Thank you for taking action. God loves everyone, and so do we.”

(Don’t you just love that last part: “God loves everyone, and so do we”? Oh yeah, these folks are just oozing love for the homosexuals and transgenders, aren’t they?)

Well, Pastor Smith was encouraging the LGBT community and our supporters to turn out for the meeting, too, to try and counteract all that love. And the folks over at Fairness Fort Worth — who said the group planning to attend the meeting are an offshoot of the Kenneth Copeland Ministries, led by Kenneth’s son John — are also stepping up to the plate to make sure the anti-gay agenda doesn’t get a free pass.

Here’s the statement from Fairness Fort Worth:

“To our GLBT Community and Supporters,

“Over the last 48 hours you may have heard that an off-shoot of Kenneth Copeland Ministries plans to attend tonight’s Fort Worth City Council meeting to protest issues important to us. Many have asked if we should create a large turnout as we did this time last year. Fairness Fort Worth recommends that we save that for a more productive day.

“Here’s why. Citizen presentations occur at the tail-end of the meeting. While last year the mayor moved these up due to an urgent issue — this time around there isn’t anything so pressing. In fact, this promises to be one of the longest Council meetings of the year. You’re certainly welcome to attend, but know this meeting may easily go until 1 a.m. Nothing on the agenda tonight specifically addresses GLBT issues. However, we have contingency plans in place to address adversarial remarks should it be necessary on any agenda item.

“Fairness Fort Worth continues to work through and be a significant stakeholder in our city process. Council members have come to respect our participation. This evening they will see the faces of our GLBT and supportive straight leadership in the gallery reinforcing the amazing initiatives they have taken over the last year.

“Tonight, watch the news; tomorrow, check your paper. Have water-cooler discussions with your colleagues and heart-to-heart conversations with your family and friends. Others may manufacture problems. We’re creating solutions.”

I also talked to Jason Lamers in Mayor Mike Moncrief’s office. He told me that there was nothing on the agenda specifically related to the LGBT community, and that he had not heard anything about the “Believers Stand United” group coming to the council meeting tonight. And, like Fairness Fort Worth, he warned that the meeting is likely to last late into the evening — at least till midnight — and that the public comment part of the meeting won’t happen until the end. He also pointed out that you can watch the council meeting live online at the Fort Worth city website.

So there you have it. The so-called Christians are planning to take their hate to the Fort Worth City Council again tonight. Fairness Fort Worth has pledged to have people there ready to answer the hatefulness if and when the need arises. But it couldn’t hurt to have a few more friendly LGBT faces in the crowd to back them up.

Watch for coverage of the meeting here on the blog tomorrow and in Friday’s Dallas Voice.

—  admin

'Blue sheet' uncovered: A copy of the DART resolution on transgender protections

DART spokesman Morgan Lyons just sent along a copy of the two-page resolution that was apparently approved by the DART board last night. Lyons also promises to call soon, but based on his e-mail, it looks like the board did in fact approve the proposed nondiscrimination policy minus the word “except.” In other words, board member Claude Williams’ interpretation was correct. I guess this is the “blue sheet” to which Board Chairman William Velasco was alluding. But as you can see after the jump, this version ain’t blue.

—  John Wright

Questions linger over DART board's vote Tuesday night on transgender protections

DART board member Ray Noah, left, and agency general counsel Hyattye Simmons look on during last night's meeting. Noah is the board member who inserted the one-word amendment that would have gutted the proposal. And Simmons has been accused of engineering the plan.
DART board member Ray Noah, left, and agency general counsel Hyattye Simmons look on Tuesday night. Noah is the board member who proposed a one-word amendment last week that would have gutted the transgender protections. And Simmons may have been a co-conspirator.

We have phone calls and e-mails in to DART spokesman Morgan Lyons seeking clarification and confirmation about what exactly the agency’s Board of Directors approved last night with regard to transgender protections.

There are two conflicting interpretations of what happened during the meeting. We’ll explain after the jump.

—  John Wright

Former Rep. Hodge reports to prison

Former state representative Terri Hodge
Former State Rep. Terri Hodge

Former State Rep. Terri Hodge, 69, is to report to federal prison in Kentucky today.

For the LGBT community, there is some bittersweet irony in the date.

This week marks the 15th anniversary of DART adding sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy. And tonight the DART board will consider whether to extend the policy to include gender identity.

Hodge was the DART board member who wrote the sexual orientation language adopted by the board in 1995.

A longtime LGBT ally, Hodge resigned from the Texas Legislature earlier this year and pleaded guilty to tax evasion. She has agreed to cooperate in an ongoing case involving 10 other defendants. In addition to prison, she may have to pay $10,000 in back taxes.

Before leaving for Kentucky, Hodge told a reporter she’s not guilty of more serious bribery charges and implied she was set up politically for being on the wrong side of a number of issues.

—  David Taffet

Petition urges DART to add trans protections

Pamela Dunlop Gates was one of three board members appointed by the city of Dallas who voted to delay the decision.
Pamela Dunlop Gates was one of three board members appointed by the city of Dallas who voted to delay the decision.

Looks like someone has posted a petition over at Change.org titled, “Urge Dallas Area Rapid Transit to Add Gender Identity to Nondiscrimination Policies.” The petition had 126 signatures as of this morning. You can sign it by going here.

As we reported last week, DART’s Board of Directors voted 6-5 to delay a decision on adding transgender protections, after some members requested additional information from the agency’s attorneys. (Yes, the same attorneys who created this whole mess by sticking their noses in a transgender employee’s family court case.) The board will take up the matter again June 15.

Voting to delay the decision were DART board members Pamela Dunlop Gates, Bill Velasco, Bob Strauss, Ray Noah, Mark Enoch and Loretta Ellerbe. Interestingly, Dunlop Gates, Velasco and Strauss all represent the city of Dallas, which has included gender identity in a nondiscrimination ordinance for the last eight years.

Noah represents Addison, Highland Park, Richardson and University Park; Enoch represents Farmers Branch, Garland and Rowlett; and Ellerbe represents Plano.

Contact information is noticeably absent from board members’ bio pages on the DART website, but I’m told you can try to reach them by calling 214-749-3278.

—  John Wright

Because if we can pass LGBT protections in Logan, Utah, we should be able to pass ENDA

fc686300-620d-11df-85da-001cc4c002e0.image
(The Herald Journal)
UPDATE: The ordinance passed Tuesday night by a vote of 4-0, with one council member abstaining.

Sometime in a past life that now seems like only a dream, I spent two years working for the daily newspaper in Logan, Utah.

Logan, home to Utah State University, is in a mountain valley with stunning scenery and long, cold winters about 80 miles north of Salt Lake City.

The city’s population is roughly 50,000, and the vast majority of residents are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Which is why it’s so hard to believe that the Logan City Council will consider an ordinance tonight that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment and housing.

—  John Wright