Monthly Archives: March 2016

States Pass New LGBT Laws to Protect Citizens

Those in the LGBT community who are considering a move to Indiana, Kansas City, or Florida will be pleased to hear that these three states (or cities in these states, as is the case with Indiana) have continued moving in the right direction as far as rights and protections go. Many gay and lesbian real estate agents are asked about LGBT rights when people are considering a move to a new state, and no one likes to hear that there are little to no laws protecting housing, employment, or any other basic right. Here are three areas where that is no longer the case.

Indiana

There Are Many New LGBT Laws Coming Out To Help Protect More Citizens Against DiscriminationSome of the larger cities in the state have already banned discrimination based on both orientation and gender identity, and the state itself looked poised to do so. However, the measure that would have made these protections statewide failed in February of 2016, leaving city councils to pass local ordinances that would at least provide some protection. The Kokomo city council approved such a measure, and the city council of Munster is preparing to vote on a similar ordinance next month. In Evansville, the city commission’s authority to enforce the city’s anti-discrimination laws has been expanded, providing more protection there.

Cities that already have anti-discrimination ordinances include Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, South Bend, Terre Haute, Columbus, and Carmel.

Washington

The mayor of Seattle, Washington, signed an executive order in early March that provides additional protection for transgender citizens. The order states that all city employees will be trained in the rights and protections of transgender people so they can better identify harassment and protect these citizens from harm. The training will include a review of all laws and ordinances that protect the rights of LGBT citizens with a focus on transgender members of the community. This includes allowing them to use the restroom facilities of the gender they identify with.

Kansas City

While Kansas City hasn’t passed any new laws or ordinances, the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project has opened a new center for LGBTQ victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. This center is the only one of its kind in Kansas, plus there are none of these centers in the neighboring states of Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska. As such, it fills a unique role. The center also offers job counseling, medical and legal advocacy, and even assistance with food and clothing for those in need.

The Top States with LGBT Employee Benefits

While marriage equality may have finally swept the nation, LGBT citizens haven’t been as lucky when it comes to employment.  There are still a good number of states where employers can fire you for being gay, lesbian, or transgender.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem likely to change in the immediate future.  It’s a concern that many gay and lesbian Realtors have, especially those that work for a firm in a state with no protection.  If you’re looking for a move, here are some of the states that have the best LGBT employee benefits and protections.

The New England States

The Top States with LGBT Employee BenefitsIt may not be much of a surprise that New York offers its LGBT employees a number of rights, including protection from workplace discrimination and hate crimes.  In fact, many of the New England states were among the first to legalize same-sex marriage and pass laws protecting LGBT citizens from discrimination.  Massachusetts, Main, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Connecticut all protect LGBT people from employment discrimination and provide a number of domestic partner benefits.  Other states on the East Coast that offer broad LGBT employment protection include New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.

The West Coast

Another unsurprising area with many different legal protections for LGBT employees is the west coast, specifically California and Washington.  Sexual orientation and gender identity are both protected through anti-discrimination laws, and both are included in hate crime legislation.  California, in fact, was the first state to offer domestic partnerships and to extend benefits such as family and medical leave to employee’s same-sex partners.  Orientation and gender identity are completely protected in these two states plus Oregon, Nevada, and Utah.

While it’s not technically a part of the west coast, Hawaii also provides protection based on both identity and orientation.

The Midwest

While the states in the Midwest may not be as progressive as those on the coasts, there are several states that do provide a good number of benefits to LGBT employees.  Minnesota and Iowa stand out as being states that were early in legalizing same-sex marriage and have offered same-sex benefits to state employees.  In fact, Iowa City actually passed a law in 1977 that made it illegal to discriminate against anyone based on their orientation.  Illinois also offers many protections to those in the LGBT community.  The only other Midwestern state that offers any sort of protection is Missouri, which does protect state employees from being discriminated against based on their orientation.

Questions to Ask Before Any Potential Move

Many people have questions about the city they are considering moving to, but if you’re a member of the LGBT community, you’re likely to have many more questions than the average person.  That’s because you will want to know if you’ll be accepted in your new home.  A gay or lesbian real estate agent can be very helpful in this process, especially if you haven’t made the move yet and are in need of help finding a home.  If you’re not sure what questions you should ask, this list may help.

How Many Hate Crimes Have Occurred in the Area?

Questions to Ask Before Any Potential MoveHate crimes, especially those that target LGBT people, can be a very good indicator of what your new neighborhood will be like.  While no one may have actually been attacked, property may have been vandalized.  Your Realtor may also know of altercations that took place.  Of course, there are times that one particular person was the cause of all of these issues, and if that person has moved, the neighborhood may no longer have any issues.  Take the timing of any anti-LGBT incident into consideration, too—if it was in the past month, you have a right to be concerned.  If there haven’t been incidents for a year or so, don’t pass up your dream house if it happens to be in the area.

Do Other LGBT Families Live There?

While it may be difficult to tell how many LGBT people are in a neighborhood, a gay or lesbian real estate agent will probably have an idea of which areas LGBT people cluster.  Even if there’s not a gay neighborhood in the city, there are always areas where LGBT people tend to cluster.  Knowing you won’t be alone in the area can help you determine where you want to live, especially if you’re looking to be a part of the LGBT community.  It also helps to know where things like the local LGBT community center, gay bars, or LGBT-owned businesses are located.

Is There Any LGBT Representation in the Local Community?

Are there any LGBT people on the board of the home owner’s association or the community association?  If there’s not, it doesn’t automatically mean that the neighborhood is a bad place to live.  However, if there is, you can definitely take it as a sign that the community is very open and welcoming to LGBT people.  Like with everything, don’t assume the lack of diversity is due to any discrimination—the LGBT people who live in the area may simply have no interest in being active in the community.

How an Agency Can Be More LGBT Friendly

Most real estate agents are always looking for new clients and to expand their client base.  This has led many to start looking specifically at the LGBT community.  While some Realtors already advertise their services in newspapers and websites aimed at LGBT readers, others are just now seeing the advantages of this.  However, there’s a vast difference between marketing yourself to a community and being friendly and inclusive.  If you simply place an ad in an LGBT newspaper without first re-evaluating things such as the terminology you use when showing a home, you’re likely to have wasted your money.

The National Association of Realtors and LGBT Clients

A Few Simple Changes May Be Able to Make Your Agency More LGBT FriendlyAccording to the National Association of Realtors’ Article 10 of the Code of Ethics, Realtors cannot discriminate against clients because of either their sexual orientation or their gender identity.  However, as with all nondiscrimination clauses, it’s often very hard to prove discrimination.  Then there’s the fact that many people don’t consciously discriminate, but may say or do things that offend their clients without realizing it.  While not every real estate agent may be aware of what they’re doing, they may be coming across as anti-LGBT.  That will certainly hurt their business—many LGBT people support businesses that support them and will use word of mouth to let others know what companies to avoid.

What Can You Do?

There are many different ways you can make your LGBT clients feel welcome and wanted by your agency.  Language, both written and verbal, is the biggest way Realtors can inadvertently make their LGBT clients feel uncomfortable.  Saying things like “this bedroom has his and her closets,” for example, may be fine if you an opposite-sex couple, but saying that with a same-sex couple is obviously going to raise some red flags with them.  What’s the solution?  Start using gender-neutral terms.  Say things like “double closets” rather than use “his or her.”

Agents also need to use the same language in advertising, in emails, and online, especially for the same property.  You don’t want to make people feel like they’re being singled out.  Your LGBT clients should feel like clients, not a special group you’re trying to attract just to get more business.

Finally, be up on all of the legal situations surrounding LGBT citizens.  With same-sex marriage legal, many no longer have to worry about how they will go about applying for a mortgage or making sure their rights are protected.  However, some may have questions about adoption or, if they’re not married, want to know what the state requires.  Being able to answer these questions may not necessarily be within the purview of a Realtor, but if you can help your clients, you’ll be more likely to gain their business.