The story of how the protections of Article 10 of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics were extended to those in the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender (GLBT) community illustrates the rich rewards that can be achieved through cooperative efforts.
In 2007, the gay, lesbian and gay friendly members of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP), led by founder Jeff Berger, began their mission to amend Article 10 of the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics to prohibit REALTOR® discrimination based on sexual orientation. NAGLREP director Eric Kodner brought the proposal to the Wisconsin REALTORS® Association Equal Opportunity in Housing Committee in 2009. This was a natural fit because not every state has an active equal opportunity/cultural diversity committee as does the WRA, and because Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to enact a state law prohibiting discrimination in housing based upon sexual orientation in 1982. The Committee prepared a proposal asking the NAR Interpretations and Procedures Subcommittee of the NAR Professional Standards Committee to initiate an Article 10 amendment and asking the Equal Opportunity/Cultural Diversity Committee for their support. In August 2009, the WRA board of directors approved this proposal, which was then submitted to NAR and favorably received by NAR staff.
During the November 2009 NAR annual meetings in San Diego, Kevin King and Char Glocke asked the NAR Equal Opportunity/Cultural Diversity Committee to recommend to the Professional Standards Committee that it amend Article 10 to prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation. That Committee instead recommended that existing NAR policy on equal housing opportunity be amended to include opposition to discrimination based on sexual orientation. This recommendation was approved by the NAR Executive Committee and the NAR board of directors.
In 2010, the focus shifted to the Interpretations and Procedures Subcommittee of the NAR Professional Standards Committee, where all amendments to the Code of Ethics must begin. The Subcommittee, which included Kevin King, adopted the proposed Article 10 amendment to prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation in March. In May 2010, during the NAR Midyear meetings in Washington, D.C., the NAR Equal Opportunity/Cultural Diversity Committee, upon the request of the WRA, issued a strong recommendation to the Professional Standards Committee that Article 10 be amended to prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation. The Professional Standards Committee approved the proposed Article 10 amendment, which was then forwarded to the NAR board of directors. The board unanimously approved the amendment.
The remaining hurdle to clear was the NAR Delegate Body where Code of Ethics amendments must be approved by a two-thirds majority. The Delegate Body met during the annual NAR meetings in New Orleans. On November 8, 2010, delegates representing 791 boards and 876,379 REALTORS® were present. Although the Article 10 amendment did pass by voice vote, a delegate requested a paper ballot that revealed that over 93 percent of the Delegate Body voted in favor of the Article 10 amendment!
Throughout this process, the WRA Equal Opportunity Committee worked in partnership with NAGLREP, with the assistance of Cliff Niersbach, NAR Board Policy & Programs; Fred Underwood, NAR Community and Political Affairs; and NAR 2010 President Vicki Cox Golder to bring this long and winding journey to a successful conclusion.
A protected class had not been added to the NAR Code of Ethics since 1998, when the federal fair housing law changed to include people with disabilities and families with children. The NAR Code was amended to match the federal law. This marks the first time Article 10 has included a protected class not already protected by federal fair housing law. As NAR General Counsel Laurie Janik observed, this time NAR is ahead of Congress.
Effective January 1, 2011, Article 10 of the Code of Ethics will provide:
REALTORS® shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, or sexual orientation. 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, or sexual orientation. (Amended 1/90 and 1/11)
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, or sexual orientation. (Amended 1/00 and 1/11)
Standard of Practice 10-3
REALTORS® shall not print, display or circulate any statement or advertisement with respect to selling or renting of a property that indicates any preference, limitations or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, or sexual orientation. (Adopted 1/94, Renumbered 1/05, 1/06 and 1/11)
Debbi Conrad is Senior Attorney and Director of Legal Affairs for the WRA.