How is this not discrimination?

The news on Inman last week struck me – are those Realtors who choose not to list themselves as “gay-friendly” therefore not? Personally, I treat all clients the same. No matter of their religion, gender, race or any other factor.  If someone needs to buy or sell a home I look at the factors that would affect their ability to do so.  I certainly would not consider their sexual orientation or any other peripherals. I mentioned this the other day, but have not been able to stop thinking about it.

Virginia’s Code says, among other things:

1. To refuse to sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, elderliness, or familial status;

2. To discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in the connection therewith to any person because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, elderliness, or familial status;

Federal laws seem to be equally silent on sexual orientation.

From Rismedia:

The certification training for LGBTRES candidates includes a half-day live lecture course or an online track, which the candidate must pass to receive their certification. The training, designed to help agents and brokers gain sensitivity to and understanding of the LGBT market, will be offered to Realogy’s affiliated sales associates and brokers at a substantially discounted rate of $75. The NGLCC will begin delivery of the training in the fourth quarter of 2006, and, in 2007, will certify LGBTRES trainers in Realogy’s major markets to make the certification available to a wider audience.

As to someone’s sexual orientation, skin color, sex, age – I don’t care one way or the other. So long as they are qualified by a reputable lender, are looking within their comfortable price range and are ready, willing and able to purchase a home now or in the (sometimes not so near) future, that’s all I need. Fair Housing laws dictate that everyone must be treated the same (although sexual orientation is not yet a protected class).

I don’t steer people to or from specific ethnic neighborhoods, nor would I feel comfortable telling a client that a neighborhood is or is not “gay friendly.”  Do we now need arbitrary certifications from various groups saying that Realtors are qualified to work with each individual protected (and not-yet-protected) classes? We have Senior Specialists, the NAR has a Diversity Section of their website.

Do I need to be listed as a “gay-friendly” Realtor? I don’t think so. I market my services to qualified buyers (and sellers), and I don’t care if they are tall, short, grey or purple, skinny or fat. If they want to buy or sell a house, that’ll do.

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The Commonwealth of Virginia also says this:

There are several groups that are not protected under either the state or federal fair housing law. For example students and smokers are not protected. Income status, sexual orientation, marital status, that is unmarried couples and age are also not protected groups. However these classes may be protected under a local ordinance. Therefore before drafting a fair housing policy a housing provider should determine if local ordinances protect certain classes that are not protected by the state or federal law.

Thank goodness students aren’t a protected class! 🙂
Everyone is a protected class.

Interesting links from InstaPundit. Here and here. Where do we draw the line and just treat people as people?

While this post was sitting waiting to be published, True Gotham voices his thoughts, with which I agree 100%.

I can’t believe that in this day and age there is a necessity for a specialization in assisting the GLBT community with their housing needs. (Don’t make me start counting up the hundreds of GLBT clients I have served through the years.) It actually seems like a bizarre kind of discrimination to me, like these are “special” people who need uncommon kinds of help.

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  1. TrvlnMn November 28, 2006 at 23:50

    I would be interested in knowing the nature of the complaints against realogy agents. It might answer a few questions.

    Discrimination based on sexual orientation is legal in the state of Virginia. That’s what the entire marriage amendment vote was about- maintaining the last acceptable form of bigotry. For example: I have to hire someone if they’re black, mexican, or female. But if you’re gay I can discriminate against you. I can pay you less or refuse to hire you altogether.

    That said- I did wonder what a “certification course” of that nature would entail? In that spirit I tried to find out a little bit more about what the difference might be between a gay vs. straight couple when purchasing real estate. What services one might need over the other?

    All I could manage to find were variations of the information contained on this website which addresses generally a few issues that would be different for same gender home buying couples.

    The essence of it (from my less than thorough research) was a lot of it was legal, and mostly things I think should be worked out before anyone gets to the point of hiring a real estate agent.

    How the home is owned, rights of survivorship (and any state laws that might affect that for a gay couple), distribution of ownership it a 50/50 ownership or 25/75. Finding mortgage lenders willing to give a loan to a gay couple, and the unique insurance issues surrounding homeownership for gay couples.

    How often does someone ask you for a referral to a professional in one of those fields (Real estate lawyer, Mortgage lender, Homeowners Insurance)?

    Additionally it also looks like if the neighborhood is hostile to gay couples they might also want to know.

    Beyond that I think it’s mostly as True Gotham said in his post:

    …no GLBT person wants to buy or sell property with the help of a bigot–so this kind of certification may be a way to help choose a real estate professional who’s committed to fairness.

    Anyway FWIW that’s my 2 cents.

  2. Jim Duncan November 29, 2006 at 11:21

    As always, thank you for commenting, and thank you for the link as well.

    I struggled with this post, as I feel that it is a potential hotbed. As I thought about it this morning, perhaps this is the market’s response to government’s not recognizing GLBT as protected classes. I don’t know. What I do know is that the need or perceived need of a “fairness certification” is a sad testament on all sides.

  3. TrvlnMn November 29, 2006 at 20:22

    I don’t think it’s a reaction to not being recognized as a protected class by the government as much as it might a be reaction to government going out of its way to purposefully marginalize a group of people to the extent of attempting to take away legal rights and protections as Virginia has tried to do with the marriage amendment.

    However, I also think the bottom line is that “the market” is doing what markets do- recognizing a subsection of it has buying power and trying to find ways to cater to that market (in order to gain business) in a way that lends itself to the perception of “added value.” As in “You can get with us what you couldn’t with just the average [insert business profession here].”

    I also do remember how I felt when I was required to waste money (I could not afford to waste) taking a required college class which on “multi-culturalism”. It was a thinly veiled “how to be politically correct and not offend anyone because everyone is equal” type of class. Until that point I always thought of myself as considerate of others. I was deeply offended by the requirement to take the class, I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know and if I could do things over again today I would probably refuse to take the class and make it an issue. So I’d like to think I can understand (at least a little) your perspective on this issue.

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