Monthly Archives: March 2015

LGBT Life in Alabama

When the state ban against same-sex marriage was ruled unconstitutional on January 23, many LGBT citizens in Alabama thought that they at last had equal rights.  The ruling was set to go into effect on February 9, and many planned to get married that day.  However, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore ordered county clerks not to issue marriage licenses, and 20 counties out of the 67 did not.  This was followed by a ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court on March 3 that no probate judge could issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple.

Alabama Has Many LGBT Friendly Areas, Despite the Political Stance on Equal RightsSo with that and with the general lack of support for LGBT rights, why would anyone in the gay community want to move to Alabama?  According to a public opinion poll held in the fall of 2014, 60 percent of the respondents were in opposition to same-sex marriage, and another 12 percent had no opinion.

But it’s not as horrible as many across the country think.  Alabama does have some great LGBT neighborhoods, especially in the larger cities.  Huntsville, for example, is home to the Five Points, a historical district where many LGBT people live.  While the 2010 Census showed that only 0.5 percent of all households were same-sex couples, that’s actually almost 10,000 people.

Birmingham is another good place for LGBT people to live.  They have several gay neighborhoods, and the city is fairly inclusive.  While the city is at the bottom of the list of the top U.S. metro areas with LGBT populations, it does have a number of same-sex households.  Areas like Crestwood and East Lake are home to a number of LGBT people.

While those two cities have good sized LGBT populations, they don’t have any laws protecting them from discrimination.  Montgomery, however, does prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  It’s not much, but it’s something.  The state itself does not have any laws regarding orientation or gender identity.  Hate crime laws do not address the subject, despite the fact that a number of state legislators have tried to push through a bill adding sexual orientation to the list.

The state has elected one openly gay public official, state Representative Patricia Todd.  She was elected in Birmingham and has been one of the most outspoken voices for LGBT rights in the state.  While Alabama does have a way to go before LGBT people are truly equal in the state, it does have a number of cities where gay and lesbian people are welcomed.

LGBT Life in Virginia

Virginia is known for being the home state of many different presidents, for being one of the original 13 colonies, and for being the capital of the Confederate during the Civil War.  The state is also one that isn’t as friendly towards LGBT rights as many would like.  Fortunately, the state is moving towards being more accepting, a fight that is led by the state’s two Democratic Senators.

Virginia Has Come a Long Way in Terms of LGBT Rights, But Still Has a Few Hurdles to Clear in Some AreasVirginia was one of the first states to ever pass a legal amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage.  The Code of Virginia, which serves as the state’s constitution, was amended in 1975 to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  The Virginia State Senate voted to ban recognizing same-sex marriages that were performed out of state in 1997.  The bill passed the House and was signed into law on March 15.  In 2004, the Senate and House passed a bill prohibiting the creation of civil unions or any other similar arrangement between same-sex couples.  The governor attempted to block this, but the veto was overridden.

Finally, in 2006, voters passed the Marshall-Newman Amendment that banned all forms of same-sex marriage, civil union, and any other type of formal relationship that was designed to be similar to marriage.  In effect, Virginia had blocked same-sex marriage not just once but several times.

At that time, most gay and lesbian realtors would tell LGBT people to be wary of a move to Virginia, especially to the more rural areas where people tended to be more conservative.  However, things have changed since then.  By March of 2014, half of all Virginians polled said they supported same-sex marriage.  After the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in the case of Bostic v. Schaefer, same-sex marriage became legal in the state.  Marriage licenses were first issued on October 6, 2014.

Even though the state has a history of being very restrictive to its LGBT citizens, there have been a few surprising decisions the state legislatures have made over the years.  For example, in 2007, the House and Senate both unanimously approved a bill that gave same-sex couples the right of access to their partners in the hospital, something usually reserved for family members only.  Governor Tim Kaine had attempted to provide benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees, while Arlington Country tried to offer domestic partners access to employee health benefits.  Both ultimately failed.

The state does not offer any protection based on sexual orientation or gender identity outside of public employment, although Arlington County and the city of Alexandria do.

What Items Can My Partner and I Expect to Remain in The Home We Are Considering Purchasing?

What Items Can My Partner and I Expect to Remain in The Home We Are Considering Purchasing?

There are many gray areas when it comes to determining exactly what should stay with the home and what may be removed by the sellers. In general, items that are fixed to the real estate must stay. Sellers may take any personal property that is not affixed to the property unless you have stipulated that it stays in a purchase agreement that both the seller and you and your partner, the purchasers, have signed.

downloadFixtures

The law of fixtures states that items are considered affixed to a property if it is attached by roots, imbedded, or permanently attached to an item that is permanent by methods including cement, plaster, nails, bolts, screws, glue or other means. Toilets, sinks, cabinets, flooring, and landscaping, fencing and other improvements are considered fixtures. On the other hand, if you and your partner purchase a farm and crops have already been planted, the fruit of those crops are not generally included in the sale unless the seller specifically intends them to be by including them in contract.

Personal Property

Items including stoves, refrigerators and lawn statutes that are not permanently affixed to the home or land are generally considered personal property. Although, in some states, it is normal practice for stoves and refrigerators to stay with the property, it is not a legal requirement since they are not considered fixtures.

How the Courts Determine Fixtures vs. Personal Property

When disputes arise related to a seller removing property from a home after it has been sold, the courts use four tests to determine whether an item is a fixture or is personal property.

1. How was it attached? Although an item may be attached by cement, plaster, nails, bolts, screws, glue or other means, if it can be easily removed without damaging the home, it is probably not a fixture. For example, drapes can be removed by unhooking them.

2. What did the parties agree to? If, for example, a light fixture in the dining room has been attached to the home with the use of wires and bolts, and the buyer and seller did not agree that it would be removed in the contract, the light fixture was included because of the method used to attach it.

3. Has the item been adapted for use with the property? If an item was installed for permanent use with the property, it is a fixture and is included in the sale. For example, solar panels, carpeting, and attic insulation. The final determination of the court in this test can be difficult to anticipate.

4. What did the parties intend? The buyer and seller’s intent will be considered to determine if an item that is personal property has become a permanent fixture.

How to Locate an LGBT Real Estate Agent

You should not assume that everything that you see when viewing a home you would like to purchase will come with the house. If there is a chandelier, built-in dishwasher or other fixture that you would like left in the home, it would be wise to include it in your contract to avoid any misunderstandings. Before submitting a purchase agreement to a seller, buyers should hire a reputable LGBT real estate agent. He or she will help ensure that your contract includes all of the information necessary according to your wishes and will protect your interests through the process of purchasing your new home. The best way to find a reputable agent in your area is to conduct a free search for your locality on GayRealEstate.com.

Posted on March 11, 2015 in Buying a Home, Home Buyers, Home Buying

Being LGBT in the Bible Belt

The Bible Belt of the U.S. is the term used to refer to states in the south-central and southeastern part of the country.  These states have an overwhelmingly large number of socially conservative religious people, and these evangelical Christians tend to play a large role in politics and society overall.  Church attendance is higher in this area than the national average.  The Bible Belt is generally defined as including all or parts of Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina, and South Carolina.  However, there are definitely parts of these states that are NOT part of this Bible Belt, such as New Orleans, South Florida, and South Texas.

Just Because You Are Part of the LGBT Community, Doesn't Mean the Bible Belt is Off Limits As Places to Happily Live and WorkBeing LGBT in the Bible Belt, as you might expect, can be challenging.  These states almost overwhelmingly vote for conservative candidates who are against LGBT rights, and many of them quickly and overwhelmingly voted for constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.  It’s only been thanks to the Supreme Court that LGBT people have gained the right to marry in a number of the Bible Belt states.

Fortunately, there are some gay and lesbian real estate agents who live in the Bible Belt, and they will be able to help you find the best places to live.  Even though these areas are notorious for being anti-LGBT, there are some very liberal cities.  Atlanta, Georgia, for example, is incredibly accepting and welcoming overall.  The Westside area, the Buckhead neighborhood, and the Little Five Points district are all very diverse and welcoming.  Arkansas has Eureka Springs, Texas has the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and Tennessee has Chattanooga.  These are just a few of the cities in the Bible Belt where LGBT people will feel safe.

It’s not that the Bible Belt has very few LGBT people—as a matter of fact, there are a good many who live in the South, but most of them are simply not out.  If you’re single and moving to the Bible Belt, you may not find that many people hanging out at the local LGBT bar (if there is one).  Instead, you’ll probably find many of them online.  Even in those cities that have major gay districts or are considered very gay-friendly, you may not see people flying rainbow flags.

When you move to one of these places, be sure to look for a gay or lesbian realtor.  They will not only help you find a home, but they can also tip you off to the best places to meet people.

My Partner and I Want to Purchase a Foreclosed Home That is Being Sold at Auction

Purchasing a home is an exciting time in your life. Submitting a winning bid on a foreclosed home that is being sold at auction that you and your partner really want to buy can be even more exciting. Before actually making your bid, there are some facts and some pitfalls that you should consider.

imagesHow it Works

When a home is foreclosed on, lenders may sale the home at auction to try to recoup its losses. Some lenders set minimum bids while others do not. Minimum bids may not represent a good price for the home, depending on how much equity the original owner had built up before the foreclosure. If the owner was only in the home a year or two, there will be almost no equity and may not be the good deal that you are looking for. Equity is the difference between how much is owed to the lender on the original mortgage along with the costs of foreclosing on the property and the fair market value of the home.

Individuals who would like to purchase the property attend the auction and place their bids. Bidders must be equipped with either cash or proof of financing at the auction. Once all bids have been submitted, the highest bidder becomes the new owner.

The Pitfalls

Homes that are sold at auction are sold “as is”. This means that there are no guarantees on the condition of the home. Lenders generally will not let you into the home or allow inspections prior to the auction. This means that, no matter what problems the home has, you will be financially responsible.

The home may not have a clear title. This means that there could be liens on the property that have not been disclosed due to mistakes by the lender. In that case, title insurance companies will not insure you against any future problems that may arise from issues that a title search did not disclose. To avoid this problem, you could hire a title company and, for a fee, they will research the title and let you know if it is insurable. You should have this done prior to the auction.

Lenders are required by law to give homeowners notice that their home has been foreclosed, but lenders do not evict them. If the original owners are still living in the home after you purchase it at auction, you will be required to follow the legal eviction procedures in the state where the home is located. Although laws vary, you will basically need to file a lawsuit and pay the associated legal expenses and court costs.

In many states, the original homeowner has a certain amount of time that is dictated by law to buy the house back. This means, for example, that he or she may have six months or a year to pay you the price that you paid in purchasing the home at auction plus interest. If you make any improvements to the home during that time, you will lose the money and the labor spent making those improvements.

Hiring an LGBT Real Estate Agent

As noted above, there are many variables that can affect the purchase of a foreclosed home that is sold at auction. A reputable LGBT real estate agent will be aware of all of the issues involved in purchasing a foreclosed home at auction and will look out for your best interests during the entire process. The best way to locate an experienced, reputable agent is to conduct a free, no obligation search at GayRealEstate.com.

Posted on March 7, 2015 in Buying a Home, Home Buyers, Home Buying

Being Gay in L.A.

Being a member of the LGBT community in Los Angeles is something of a paradox, especially if you’re in the entertainment industry.  For most people, it’s not a big deal until suddenly it is.  Movie and television stars often stay in the closet for as long as they can because they fear it will hurt their careers, although more and more are refusing to hide who they truly are.  For the average LGBT person living in L.A., there’s no need to remain closeted.  The city is quite accepting and open to everyone, and certain neighborhoods are definitely gay districts.

L.A. Is Full of LGBT Accepting CommunitiesL.A.’s LGBT population is hard to judge simply because many people are closeted, but in 2007, a survey reported that about 3.7 percent of people in Los Angeles County considered themselves a member of the LGBT community.  A very large percentage of these people live in West Hollywood.  Almost 40 percent of the area’s residents considered themselves LGBT in 2014.  It’s no wonder, then, that West Hollywood has been called Gay Camelot and Boys Town!

Silver Lake is another major LGBT community.  This is a very eclectic area—homes are a mixture of styles, and the population is about the same.  While there are a number of gay singles and couples here, there are also many young straight couples and older retired people in the neighborhood.

There are a lot of other neighborhoods and suburbs in and around L.A. with large LGBT populations, including Venice, Santa Monica, North Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys, and Elysian Parks.

L.A. hosts a large gay pride parade every June, and the city is home to a number of LGBT community centers and institutions.  The ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives is located at the University of Southern California and operates a museum in West Hollywood.  The first social center for lesbians, the Gay Women’s Service Center, has operated in the city since 1971.  ONE Magazine, the first LGBT publication to have a nationwide circulation, was first published in Los Angeles.  The city was also home to the Mattachine Society, the very first sustained LGBT rights group in the country.  It was founded in 1950.

As far as civil liberties go, California made news with the battle over Proposition 8 and the fact that same-sex marriage became legal for a short period of time, was put on hold, and then was finally made a full, indisputable right.  The case has influenced the same-sex marriage cases in a number of states since, and the precedent it set is sure to play a part in the Supreme Court’s deliberations in 2015.