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In the wake of the worst two years of anti-LGBTQ legislation, the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance is calling on the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and its lobbying arm, the Realtor Political Action Committee (RPAC) to stop funding local, state or nationally-elected legislators who support anti-LGBTQ laws.
“It has become increasingly difficult for The Alliance to remain silent as NAR and RPAC actively continue to support candidates who are involved in anti-LGBTQ+ behavior which is, unfortunately, becoming more and more aggressive as the days pass,” LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance CEO Ryan Weyandt said while noting U.S. lawmakers have proposed more than 500 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation in 2021 and 2022 alone.
“It is incredible that while NAR has pushed to be more inclusive and that local, regional and state Realtor associations are the doing the same, member dollars are going to fund politicians seeking public office who are blatantly opposed to this kind of work.”
AREAA President Tim Hur, National LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce co-founder Justin Nelson and 19 other co-cosigners joined Weydant in asking RPAC to adopt a holistic reviewing process for the candidates it supports and go beyond solely focusing on whether they’re pro-housing or not.
“Up until this point, the argument has always been presented that they support pro-housing politicians, and I appreciate that and that’s what we want,” Weydant said in an exclusive interview with Inman. “We want folks that support Realtors to help govern the country because housing is the American Dream.”
“[However], they cannot operate on a one-issue field any longer,” he added. “When you have an openly anti-LGBTQ congressperson speaking out comparing folks in our community to pedophiles, it’s discouraging, it’s disenchanting and it’s prohibiting our right to fair housing.”
Weydant cited several recent studies highlighting the connection between anti-LGBTQ discrimination and lower homeownership rates within the community including two reports by NAR and Realtor.com.
In May, NAR published a study that revealed discrimination is the second-biggest obstacle to homebuying, with homebuyers and homeowners both noting discrimination based on their sexual orientation complicated their homeownership journey.
A month later, Realtor.com’s Pride Month survey yielded similar results, with discrimination and fears of facing anti-LGBTQ violence stopping 40 percent of transgender and non-binary homebuyers from purchasing their dream home.
“To see an elected representative in the United States Congress vocally bashing LGBTQ folks and comparing them to pedophiles, it is a huge shot to you emotionally,” Weydant said in reference to comments made by RPAC-backed senator, Ted Cruz. “It’s hard to put into words what it does to someone in the community when you see your elected officials bashing you for who you are.”
“It doesn’t make sense to put dollars into anti-LGBTQ candidates on the left hand, and then on the right hand say you stand in solidarity with the Alliance and you support the Equality Act” he added. “RPAC needs to understand there are residual effects to funding anti-LGBTQ candidates that directly impact the housing industry.”
In an emailed statement to Inman, RPAC President Leslie Rouda Smith and RPAC Trustees Federal Disbursements Committee Chair Patti Hill responded to Weyandt’s criticisms by highlighting NAR’s support of the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to list sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.
“NAR’s work on Fair Housing issues is unmatched, and our support for the LGBTQ+ community is unwavering,” Rouda Smith said. “NAR strongly supports the housing provisions within the Equality Act. In February 2021, the Equality Act passed the House of Representatives with NAR’s backing, and we continue to urge the Senate to take action.”
“Discrimination of any kind strikes at the real estate industry’s goals and values and diminishes our efforts to ensure Fair Housing for all,” she added.
Meanwhile, Hill explained NAR leadership has no control over federal RPAC disbursements, and RPAC is dedicated to maintaining a nonpartisan viewpoint as 2020 disbursements were almost evenly split between Republicans (49 percent) and Democrats (51 percent).
“The National RPAC is a separate entity governed by its Trustees and independent of NAR,” Hill said. “No member of NAR’s leadership, including the elected leadership team and the CEO, has any authority or input over federal RPAC disbursements.”
She added, “Those decisions are locally-led and reside solely with national RPAC’s Trustees… Under the Realtor Party model, our success derives from the issues, not a single political party. When power changes, as it always will, we have champions on both sides of the aisle.”
Despite RPAC’s initial response, Weyandt said the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance and its allies won’t let up on their goal of ensuring fair housing for LGBTQ homebuyers and renters.
“There are 29 states that do not have state legislation protecting LGBTQ folks,” he said. “And although there is an executive order in place right now by the President [that bans anti-LGBTQ discrimination in housing], that can be easily overturned by the next administration. So, in reality, there are no protections in place.”
Although he recognizes and respects the various political and personal views of NAR members, Weydant said NAR and RPAC have a responsibility to live up to their own anti-discrimination standards and avoid repeating mistakes of the past.
“Right now, NAR is holding its members to higher standards than its own member-funded RPAC,” he said. “If Realtors are not permitted to discriminate as outlined in Article 10 of the Code of Ethics, RPAC should not — and cannot — be allowed to fund and support those who do.”
“If this was a conversation about candidates that were openly opposed to Black and African American rights, this conversation wouldn’t be taking place,” he added. “As we saw with President Oppler, NAR had to issue an apology for how they treated Black and African American folks for a very, very long time both professionally and as consumers.”
“I believe they have the opportunity to prevent that from happening again in the future with the LGBTQ community. Now is the time to act.”
Read the full letter below: