Monthly Archives: October 2015

Washington State is a Great Option for Some, but Is It For You?

Washington state has been a draw for LGBT people in recent years as many have moved to Seattle and other cities due to the progressive stance the state has taken in regards to LGBT rights.  Washington has been a leader in LGBT rights in many ways, including allowing domestic partnerships as early as 2007 and repealing its sodomy laws back in 1975.

Marriage and Spousal Benefits

Washington State is A Great Place for Many People to Make Their Home, But It Is Not Ideal for EveryoneWhile Washington didn’t legally recognize same-sex marriages until 2012, the state did begin providing benefits to LGBT partners of state employees in 2001.  Unfortunately, a statute went into effect in 1998 defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and that law was upheld in 2006 in the Andersen v. King County case.  As a work-around, in 2007 the state legalized domestic partnerships that were defined to be equal in all ways to the same-sex marriages and civil unions performed in other states, and those marriages and unions were also officially recognized in Washington.

On February 13, 2012, the governor signed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage.  However, opponents gathered enough support to put it to a vote of the people.  It passed with 54 percent in favor in November 2012.  On June 30, 2014, the law ordered all domestic partnerships to automatically change over to a marriage if not dissolved earlier.

Families

In Washington, any adult can legally petition to adopt a child, regardless of their marital status.  Same-sex couples are allowed to adopt jointly, and second-parent adoptions are also legal.  The state has taken steps to outlaw conversion theory aimed at minors, but while the legislation passed the state House in 2014, the state Senate did not take action on the bill.

Anti-Discrimination and Hate Crime Laws

The state does prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.  Discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations are all covered.  Hate crimes, including violence and “malicious harassment” are also on the books and protect LGBT citizens.  Anti-bullying laws that protect LGBT students are also in effect.

Transgender Laws

Unlike some states where transgender people are often left out, Washington has passed several laws aimed at protecting their rights.  The state has banned insurance exclusions for gender reassignment and other transgender health services.  State employees have access to a number of transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits.  The state also allows transgender people to change their sex on both their birth certificate and on their driver’s license or state identification card.

Should My LGBT Family Fear Homeowner’s Associations?

If you move into certain neighborhoods, apartment complexes, or condos, you may find that you have to abide by a number of rules and regulations set down by the neighborhood homeowners association.  In many cases, these are fairly simple—keep your yard in good condition, don’t put up an ugly metal carport, and don’t leave piles of garbage on the porch.

You Have Rights and Responsibilities Under a Homeowner's Association, Same As A Non-LGBT Family WouldBut some LGBT residents have had issues with homeowners associations.  The most recent incident has occurred in Australia, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen in the U.S. or anywhere around the world where homeowners associations exist.  The two elderly men were told that they had to remove their rainbow flag from the terrace of their apartment by the association because it violated the homeowners association regulations.  It was, they were told, in violation of the rules that say that the external appearance of all units in the complex must be uniform in nature—curtains, blinds, and all window fixtures need to appear very similar, and the rainbow flag stood out.  They also said that the rainbow flag was a type of advertising material that broke the rules.

This is just one example of LGBT people and homeowners associations butting heads.  Others have been told to remove the rainbow flags from their homes, although that is becoming more and more rare.  Others have found that they were discriminated against when they tried to run for the homeowners board of directors.

In some instances, you really need to read the homeowners association rules before moving into a neighborhood.  For example, a homeowners association can legally ban homeowners from flying flags, but it has to be a uniform ban—they can’t deny rainbow flags specifically, but they can ban all flags that are not protected by federal law (such as the U.S. flag).  They can also put restrictions on when flags are flown and even ban any flag that is so large it blocks other people’s views or is a danger to others.

Despite all of this, homeowners associations can also work for LGBT residents.  Many go out of their way to help protect LGBT homeowners rights and access to housing, while others work to keep hate speech and vandalism out of the neighborhood.  LGBT residents also face much less resistance to running for the association board of directors and are often very active in the community.  While some do see homeowners association rules as being restrictive, many are there to keep the neighborhood looking good, which of course will raise property values and, if you ever sell your home, can lead to higher selling prices.

States to Be Weary of When Looking for Equal Transgender Rights

Gay and lesbian realtors don’t just work for gay and lesbian people—anyone in the LGBT community and even straight people often hire them.  Those who are transgender may feel especially comfortable working with a gay or lesbian real estate agent because they know they won’t be judged.

There Are Some States That Are a Bit Behind When It Comes to LGBT and Transgender Rights, So You Need to Carefully Consider Where to Live If You Are Looking to Move in the Near FutureWhile gay and lesbian people have become more accepted, transgender people still have a long way to go.  For example, while Caitlyn Jenner may have received a number of compliments, she was also derided and made fun of by a number of people, showing that transgender rights still have a long way to go.  If you’re considering transitioning, you may want to find a place to live where you’ll be accepted or, at best, not actively discriminated against.  With that in mind, here are a few states where transgender people have very few rights.  You may want to avoid moving to these areas for the time being.

Kentucky – The state has been in the news a lot thanks to Kim Davis, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Kentucky is not exactly transgender friendly.  The state has no anti-discrimination laws in place for schools, nor does it allow same-sex couples to adopt.  Religious-exemption laws allow for discrimination based on someone’s religious preferences, plus the state has yet to ban conversion therapy.

Kansas – Kansas has no protection for LGBT people in regards to employment, school, adoption, or housing, plus they have religious-exemption laws on the books.  Conversion therapy is also legal here.

Ohio – Like Kansas, Ohio has no anti-discrimination laws, and conversion therapy is legal.  The state doesn’t have religious-exemption laws, though, which makes it slightly better.

Texas – Texas takes everything that Kentucky and Kansas has plus adds to it a law that prevents teachers from talking about LGBT issues in school.

Tennessee – While many of the above states do have very liberal cities that have passed their own laws protecting their transgender citizens, Tennessee has gone as far as to ban individual cities and counties from doing this.  There is absolutely no protection for transgender people in Tennessee thanks to this law.

Naturally, there are gay, lesbian, and transgender people living in all of these states.  In most cases, they live in those more accepting areas where their orientation or gender is not an issue.  Fortunately, more and more cities, counties, and states are recognizing that they must protect all of their citizens and are working to make gay, lesbian, and transgender people equal in the eyes of the law.

Ohio Shouldn’t Be an LGBT Underdog, and Here’s Why!

When most people think of Ohio, they don’t really think of much of anything—the state has an unfair reputation as being very boring.  Even with cities like Cincinnati, Columbus, and Akron, most people assume there’s not a lot to do in Ohio.  These people would probably be very surprised to learn that the state is actually very LGBT friendly and is also a popular vacation spot for gays and lesbians.

An Underrated State

Ohio is Often Seen As One of the Most Underrated LGBT States In the U.S.Ohio is often very underrated within the LGBT community, but there’s no reason it should be.  It may not have famous gay cities like New York or San Francisco, but many people say that Columbus is just as great.  In fact, because it’s not as crowded or as expensive, many people prefer living in Columbus than on either coast.  The city has a few different gay neighborhoods, plus Ohio State University brings many gay and lesbian students to the area.  Many bars, art galleries, and restaurants round out Columbus and make it a great home.  It’s no wonder that the city has the 15th largest LGBT population in the U.S.

Dayton is another very welcoming city.  If you’re into the performing arts, you probably already know that Dayton is home to a world-class theater, ballet, and orchestra.  The city also has a thriving LGBT nightlife and an extensive historical section.  Both Columbus and Dayton are very affordable, too.

Ohio Rights

As with all states, same-sex marriage became legal in Ohio in June of 2015 with the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.  Prior to that, the state had passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2004.  Prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage, nine cities and two counties offered domestic partnerships, and it’s uncertain if those partnerships will remain valid or if the couples will need to transition into a marriage.

As far as adoption goes, both step-parent and joint adoption is legal for spouses, regardless of the gender of the spouses.  The state does not, however, have any protection for orientation or gender identity other than the anti-discrimination policy that applies to state employees, which protects on the basis of sexual orientation only.  However, a number of cities and counties have passed anti-discrimination ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on orientation in housing and employment.  Dayton, in fact, includes transgender individuals in its ordinance.  Neither orientation nor gender identity are listed in the state’s hate crime laws, nor does the state allow people to change their gender on their birth certifications.

Despite this, some areas of Ohio are quite legal and welcoming.  Ask one of our LGBT real estate professionals about Columbus or Dayton and you’ll usually hear nothing but positives.

LGBT and Retiring – Things to Consider

If you’re about to retire, you may be thinking about moving.  Many seniors move to retirement communities for a number of reasons.  Some love starting a new life in their golden years, while others find that the environment is much better for their health.  But moving for retirement has a few extra things you need to consider than if you were just moving due to a new job or other reason.  Here are a few things you should ask your gay or lesbian real estate agent about before you make the move.

The Community Attitude isn’t Everything

When Considering Retirement, There Are Some Unique Considerations Members of the LGBT Community Often Have to MakeMany people ask about how the community views its LGBT neighbors and if they will be accepted.  That’s definitely something you need to ask about no matter what your age, but when you’re retiring, you also have to consider that you may eventually be in need of assisted living or nursing home facilities.  Are there assisted living facilities in the city that are LGBT-friendly?  Learn about the cost and the benefits of these facilities so that if you do ever need to move to one, you’ll know which ones in the area are more likely to be more open-minded.

Healthcare

Finding an LGBT-friendly doctor is another concern that all LGBT people share, but it’s especially important as you get older since you may need to see a healthcare professional more often.  In most cases, people move and then find healthcare, but for seniors, it may be a good idea to research the doctors in the area before you make your final choice, especially if you have a rare or chronic illness.

Consider an LGBT Retirement Community

More and more LGBT retirement communities are popping up thanks to the success of places such as RainbowVision and Triangle Square.  RainbowVision is located in Santa Fe, a city already popular with retirees, while Triangle Square is located in Los Angeles.  While both communities are marketed mostly to LGBT seniors, they are open to anyone.  RainbowVision, in fact, has about a 3:1 LGBT to straight ratio.  There are no other restrictions in place, either—there’s no age requirement, for example.  RainbowVision even includes a small number of assisted living apartments in addition to condos.

Is there an Active LGBT Senior Community?

Many seniors, especially those who move to an area away from their family members, become somewhat isolated.  If you’re afraid that could happen to you simply because you’re new to the area, look to see if there’s an active LGBT senior community.  An LGBT retirement community will obviously have this, but many other retirement communities will have groups that are quite welcoming.