The past few months have been an emotional rollercoaster ride for all Americans, with an unprecedented health crisis that derailed the global economy followed by a massive wave of civil unrest not seen since the protests of the late 1960s.
For the real estate profession, this has been the most trying time since the Great Recession, with many states and localities issuing edicts that made it difficult to keep the housing market in motion. However, a mix of new technologies and old-fashioned perseverance ensured that real estate professionals could handle transactions and continue to make a living.
For LGBT Americans, the tumult of the spring brought about the cancellation of the annual Pride celebrations that are both the experiential centerpiece of the community and an important reminder of the progress made to gain a full measure of equality within the American family. Of course, public safety concerns take precedent over parades, fairs and concerts, and LGBT Americans shared the disappointment that many other communities across the country felt in seeing annual traditions put on hold.
But there was also a victory for the LGBT community this spring that changed history for the better: the June 15 U.S. Supreme Court decision that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 offered protection from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. After too many years, the contradictory patchwork of state and local laws was replaced by a standardized affirmation that LGBT Americans should not fear for their careers just because they are LGBT.
The Supreme Court victory was a long time in coming around, but there was one significant industry in this country that was already upholding the tenets of equality long before it became enshrined in federal law.
The members of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) have been grateful to be part of an industry that has been committed to the concepts of equality and respect for the individual. Over the past decade, NAGLREP and its partners in the industry have set standards to ensure career development and advancement is available to the LGBT real estate professionals. Since its founding in 2007, NAGLREP members have helped people from across a wide diversity of cultural backgrounds in their common ground pursuit of the American Dream through homeownership by helping them buy and sell property..
This incredible odyssey began in 2008 when NAGLREP members began attending National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Diversity Committee meetings with hard work and perseverance to amend Article 10 of the NAR Code of Ethics to include sexual orientation and gender identity. At a time when roughly half of the country would not have such a concept in their state laws, this was a brave step for NAR to include a protected class before Federal Fair Housing Law. By 2011 and 2013, Article 10 was updated to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Clearly, NAR’s ability to recognize the dignity of all working people helped chart the country on the right course.
Furthermore, the industry has been prescient in recognizing the economic value that LGBT professionals can bring to the workforce. NAGLREP’s inaugural Conference in 2014 brought out an A-list of Corporate America. In subsequent NAGLREP LGBT Housing Policy Summit Conferences, leaders from Capitol Hill have addressed NAGLREP members in honest and supportive observations of challenges that need to be addressed.
NAGLREP recognizes that among the work that still needs to be done is the passage of the Equality Act, which would finally expand the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. While there may be waffling and evasiveness across parts of Washington on this legislation, NAGLREP is proud to stand with the industry leaders that have vocally called out for its passage: Bank of America, Realogy, HSF Affiliates, Keller Williams, RE/MAX, US Bank, Wells Fargo and NAR all endorse the Equality Act. NAGLREP has also aligned with the most prominent LGBT non-profits—HRC, NGLCC, PFLAG, Lambda Legal—to raise awareness for the Equality Act.
The association has also formed the LGBT Mortgage Advisory Group to represent the interests of both LGBT homebuyers and mortgage professionals. With a focus on strategies for successful advocacy, professional education and career empowerment, this group is co-chaired by Kimber White and Valerie Saunders, respectively the president-elect and executive director of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers.
Today, NAGLREP has grown to more than 2,800 members in the real estate industry, with local chapters across the nation engaging with their local REALTOR® associations. And not unlike the marchers in the Pride parades that will resume when the coronavirus is extinct, the association is able to look back with satisfaction over what has been accomplished and will look ahead with enthusiasm over what future goals can be surpassed.
Jeff Berger is the founder of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP). For more information, please visit www.naglrep.com.