Zillow and Realogy joined 159 other businesses to announce their support their support of a new bill expressly banning discrimination by businesses on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the Equality Act, ahead of its expected re-introduction into Congress next week.

The Equality Act would add non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals into the nation’s civil rights laws, which include the Fair Housing Act.

The Fair Housing Act, passed into law in 1968 and now a bedrock of the real estate industry, makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status or national origin in the renting or selling of housing. It does not, however, mention sexual orientation.

“At Zillow Group, we believe everyone deserves a home they love,” Katie Curnutte, Zillow Group’s senior vice president of communications and public affairs, said in a statement. “But fair housing doesn’t happen by itself.”

“We all have a role to play to ensure our communities are inclusive and diverse,” Curnutte added. “In the majority of states, LGBTQ people have no formal legal protections against discrimination when it comes to housing – it’s clear more work needs to be done. Achieving this requires meaningful laws that help ensure inclusive, diverse communities free from discrimination in all forms  – which is why we support the Equality Act.”

The Equality Act was introduced by Congressman David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-O.R.) in 2015, but failed to make it out of committee. It was re-introduced in 2017 and referred to committee that same year. It was not introduced to the full Congress for a vote during the last Congressional session. It’s expected to be re-introduced next week. Both the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate would need to pass the same version of the bill and send it to President Donald Trump for signing for it to become law.

Realogy previously announced its support for the Equality Act in October 2018 and has once again pledged its support as one of the company’s to sign onto the Human Rights Commission’s (HRC) Business Coalition for the Equality Act.

“The more than 160 leading American companies that have joined HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act are sending a loud and clear message that the time has come for full federal equality,” HRC President Chad Griffin said, in a statement. “By standing with the LGBTQ community and joining the fight to pass the Equality Act, these companies are demanding full federal equality for the more than 11 million LGBTQ people in this country who deserve to earn a living, raise their families and live their lives free from discrimination.”

Nearly one-third of LGBTQ adults reported that they were at least somewhat worried about having to hide their LGBTQ identity in order to find access to suitable housing options, according to a 2018 survey from AARP.

GLADD reported that 55 percent of the respondents to a 2018 survey said they experienced discrimination last year compared to 44 percent in 2016. Forty-four percent of NAGLREP members who responded to a 2017 survey believe their LGBTQ clients will experience the same or worse discrimination than in years past.

The National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals has long advocated for the Equality Act, even pressing the National Association of Realtors to publicly support the bill. 

“NAGLREP has been in constant contact with HRC and the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus on the status of the Equality Act,” Jeff Berger, a Realtor and the founder of NAGLREP told Inman. “We are excited that re-introduction of this important bill appears to be imminent and NAGLREP is thrilled that Realogy, Zillow and others have – and are considering – publicly supported it.”

“It is so important for NAGLREP to help the real estate industry recognize how discrimination of any type, including housing, has immediate and long term negative implications that hurt LGBTs ability to buy a home,” Berger added. “This type of legislation and the discussion that goes along with it is critically important.”

Email Patrick Kearns

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