Let’s face it, these days it seems our culture is becoming more and more divided. While it’s true that everyone has an opinion and in this great country of ours all opinions deserve equal freedoms in the public square, we certainly have to weigh those freedoms against the responsibility of our words, our actions and our intentions. We do not live, nor do we speak, in a vacuum. For every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction. All it takes is five minutes on Facebook and it’s evident that people can find their platform to speak in harsh and unrelenting tones, oftentimes polarizing the community further as they rally their own troops and instigate arguments that bring division instead of healing, discord instead of peace, rejection instead of acceptance. As REALTORS, we should be leading the struggle for justice within the housing community.
Here’s the deal. While you might be familiar with the Fair Housing Act that ensures equal housing opportunities without discrimination against race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status (also known as the seven protected classes) you may not know that the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) goes above and beyond those to also include sexual orientation and gender identity. In fact, Article 10 of the NAR Code of Ethics states “REALTORS® shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. REALTORS® shall not be parties to any plan or agreement to discriminate against a person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. (Amended 1/14) REALTORS®, in their real estate employment practices, shall not discriminate against any person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.” (emphasis mine).
So any real estate agent who belongs to a REALTOR® association, such as HAR, TAR, or NAR should always be abiding by these codes and yet we all hear stories of unfair practices. In fact, according to the 2017 Fair Housing Trends Report, there were over 28,000 violations in 2016 alone. Of those 28,000+ reports, 55% of those cases were disability related and almost 20% were related to race. Keep in mind, those statistics are only referring to the 7 federally protected classes listed above. It’s currently not a federal crime to discriminate on housing as it relates to sexual orientation or gender identity – only a violation of our NAR Code of Ethics.
In 1998, NAR in partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development created the One America Principles which include principles like:
- “I will base my decision and opinions of you on who you are, not on any preconceived stereotypes or ingrained value judgments.”
- “I embrace and celebrate the strength that diversity brings to our communities and nation.”
I fully embrace the One America principles not because I simply want to make sure we’re following the NAR Code of Ethics, but because these values truly line up with who I am deep down. No matter what your race, your background, your sexual preference or gender identity, you are worth embracing and celebrating. Not for your commission – but for your humanity, your heart, your mind, and your companionship. You are our community, our friends, our family, our associates, our significant others.
That’s why, this weekend, we’ll be at the Houston Pride Parade. Our lives are invested in working for equality for all. Some of my closest friends are in the LGBTQ community and we stand with them arm in arm, hand in hand.
That’s why, during religious holidays, you’ll see us embrace a variety of celebrations and practices as we learn to value our diversity and enjoy the unity that can come alongside it.
That’s why you’ll never see us on social media, making fun of women, minorities, the LGBTQ community, or someone’s socio-economic status. People can do as they please, but to us compassion is our guiding principle.
That’s why we don’t ascribe to any political party, with the exception of the REALTOR® Party. We work with one of the largest non-partisan legislative groups to ensure the best practices for our industry and the best values for your homes.
That’s why, at the end of the day, we firmly believe we are stronger as one. Diverse. Varied. Compassionate. United.