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LGBTQ Realtors Urge Congress to Pass Nondiscrimination Protections

Housing leaders head to Capitol Hill on April 10 and 11 to support the Equality Act.

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NAGLREP members at the 2018 LGBT Housing Policy Summit.

Housing leaders from across the U.S. will head to Capitol Hill this month to urge support for non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ home buyers and renters.

In Texas and 29 other states, it is legal to deny someone housing on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. In light of this, the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP), will present a 2019 LGBT Housing Policy Summit in Washington DC on April 10 and 11.

Jeff Berger

“Housing discrimination exists, and it lowers the amount of home ownership within the LGBTQ community,” NAGLREP founder Jeff Berger tells OutSmart. “Our LGBT Housing Policy Summit will be a call to action regarding the need for change.”

Members of NAGLREP and other prominent housing-industry figures will speak in panels at the Human Rights Campaign Equality Center and the U.S. Capitol, sharing statistics and activists’ personal experiences with housing discrimination. The spokespersons, whose positions range from Realtors to activist leaders, also plan to endorse LGBTQ-affirming congressional bills.

Speaker Jamie Zapata, a transgender Realtor from Texas who serves as president of NAGLREP’s San Antonio chapter, is no stranger to adversity. After coming out, she experienced discrimination in both housing and employment because of her gender identity.

“I [once] sold my house because my neighbors made me feel so uncomfortable, constantly giving me dirty looks and calling the cops on me for just being who I am,” Zapata says. “And before I was a Realtor, I was let go from a variety of jobs for ‘being a distraction.’”

Jamie Zapata

Zapata admits she wasn’t sure that the real-estate industry would be any more welcoming when she started working for Coldwell Banker one year ago. But her job has been very affirming, she says, and has allowed her to assist LGBTQ home shoppers who have also faced housing discrimination in the past.

In addition to her position at NAGLREP, Zapata is a prominent trans activist who serves in leadership roles at the San Antonio LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the San Antonio Pride Center, and the Transgender Education Network of Texas. She says her involvement in these organizations has inspired her to approach her Realtor work through advocacy.  

“LGBTQ people would be so empowered if we all had the same rights,” Zapata says. “At the summit, I plan to highlight the fact that there is no nationwide law that includes protections for gender identity or sexuality, and show my support for the Equality Act.”

While there are guidelines against LGBTQ discrimination in some real-estate agencies––for example, the National Association of Realtors forbids members to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity––there is no federal nondiscrimination law. The Equality Act, a bill introduced in Congress last month, would ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination in housing, as well as in employment, public accomodations, jury service, education, federal programs, and credit.

“Right now, advocating for the Equality Act is our best bet,” Berger says. “If it is passed, LGBTQ people across the U.S. would finally be protected from housing discrimination, which is what NAGLREP has been advocating for since its launch.”

Congressional hearings for the Equality Act are scheduled in April and May, and should reach the House floor this summer.

In conjunction with the LGBT Housing Policy Summit, NAGLREP has released an LGBT Real Estate Report for 2018–2019. The report, which surveyed 485 members, provides an in-depth look at the nation’s queer homebuyers, sellers, and renters.

NAGLREP’s report pointed out that levels of housing discrimination have increased from 2017 to 2018. “In fact, 45 percent of those surveyed believed a sizable number of their LGBT clients will experience the same or more housing discrimination this year, [compared to] previous years. This is up slightly from 44 percent last year,” the report states.

Berger says that the laws permitting LGBTQ housing discrimination, and the election of President Trump in 2016, inspired him to create NAGLREP’s first LGBT Housing Policy Summit three years ago.

“Our world shifted politically after the new administration took office,” Berger recalls. “To me, it seemed obvious that there was a need for an event like this to continue raising awareness for LGBT protections—and there still is.”

NAGLREP, which was launched in 2007 to serve as a directory for LGBTQ and ally Realtors, will host a national conference in Palm Springs in October.

For more information about the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals, visit naglrep.com.

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Lourdes Zavaleta

Lourdes Zavaleta is a staff writer for OutSmart magazine. She recently graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in journalism.

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