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Austin, Texas-based Realtor and 2023 president of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance Erin Morrison hates public speaking. “I never wanted to be a leader. I didn’t even think that I could be a leader,” she said from the WomanUp! 2023 stage on June 14. “When I was given this opportunity with the Alliance, I knew that I had to say yes.”
As a self-described pan-sexual woman based in a state that is pushing forth anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, Morrison has seen first-hand the fear the LGBTQ+ community is feeling. And not just in Texas. Many other communities are experiencing the impact of legislation on gender-affriming care, other transgender-related bills and even saying the word “gay.”
“I’m not up here to be political. I have voted on both sides. If you want to know more about that, I’m happy to tell you. We pride our organization in being apolitical. If you accept us, we accept you. We love you, you love us. LGBTQ+ rights are human rights. And human rights should never be political. End of story. Full stop,” Morrison said to the WomanUP! audience as they erupted in applause.
The intersection of LGBTQ+ and real estate is complicated. Looking at both sides, there are religious beliefs, personal beliefs, politics, code of ethics and legalities at play.
In April, Inman reported that “over the past two years, U.S. legislators have proposed 526 bills aimed at curbing LGBTQ+ rights and transgender healthcare access and eliminating educational curriculum that aligns with Critical Race Theory (CRT).”
According to Morrison, there are varying estimates that range from 400-700 anti-LGBTQ+ legislation bills working their way through government right now, which means that this conversation is far from over. Onstage, she told stories of people in the community who are helping families get out of states with pending legislation.
Recent research from the Williams Institute at UCLA’s law school found that 88 percent of the LGBTQ+ parents it surveyed are concerned about the way the “Don’t Say Gay” bill will impact them and their children. Concerns like speaking freely about their families and the children’s safety and sense of self were cited among the 56 percent who have considered moving out of Florida and the 17 percent who have taken steps to do so.
Morrison told Inman that those parents’ fears are very real and should not be taken lightly. We sat down with Morrison to hear more about her perspective as a female, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a leader, a mother, a spouse, an advocate and a Realtor who is helping others navigate this terrain.
“I am a person, a woman, a Realtor, like all of you.” — Erin Morrison, WomanUP! 2023
Article 10, Anti-wokism, legislation
Because this is such a complex debate, we’ll take a little time to unpack some of the issues discussed in the Q&A section.
On June 22, 2023, Morrison penned an op-ed, titled “The anti-LGBTQ+ movement IS a real estate issue. Here’s why,” which delves further into some of the data and anecdotes she’s encountered. There are several threads to follow here. Realtors are bound by the code of ethics and the Fair Housing Act, which is subject to fines and other repercussions.
But also, Realtors pay dues to their local and national associations, who then donate money to candidates through Realtors Political Action Committees (RPACs). And sometimes, RPACs support candidates who are blatantly going against principles that NAR upholds, according to recent op-eds from Morrison and Inman contributors Rachael Hite and Ryan Weyandt — the latter of whom serves as the CEO of The LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance.
As Morrison writes, some states simply aren’t safe for the LGBTQ community. The ACLU recently shared the list of the states participating in the 491 anti-LGBTQ+ bills. Here are the greatest offenders, ranked by the number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills each has:
- Texas 51
- Missouri 35
- Oklahoma 35
- Iowa 29
- Tennessee 26
- Mississippi 24
- Indiana 18
- South Carolina 18
- North Dakota 17
- Kansas 13
- Virginia 12
- West Virginia 12
- Arizona 11
- Kentucky 11
- Florida 10
One of the pillars of the the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance is advocacy. Its mission reads: “Advocate. Elevate. Celebrate. Advocate for fair housing for all and promote LGBTQ+ homeownership. Elevate professionalism in the industry through education and networking. Celebrate diversity and inclusion in our members and allied partners.”
Article 10 for RPACs
The Alliance has been busy challenging the Florida and now Texas RPACs. In April, Inman’s Marian McPherson wrote, “Six months after challenging the National Association of Realtors, Florida Realtors and the Realtor Political Action Committee for backing political candidates who support discriminatory legislation, the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance is taking the fight to the Association’s Texas chapter.”
“There are far too many elected officials in Texas who are blatantly discriminatory including several state senators and representatives, Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton who have authored or supported multiple discriminatory bills against the LGBTQ+ community,” Weyandt said in a statement sent to Inman at the time. “If these officials were Realtors, they would have almost certainly been sanctioned for violating Article 10 of the National Association of Realtors Code of Ethics.”
Weyandt has proposed using the Article 10 Code of Ethics rule in evaluating political candidates, which would mean that if a candidate said or did something discriminatory (something that a Realtor would be punished for under Article 10), then they shouldn’t receive funding. The Article 10 Rule has been around for decades, and it prohibits denying equal professional services to anyone based on race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation, among other things.
However Leslie Rouda Smith and Patti Hill — former president of NAR’s RPAC and former chair of the RPAC Trustees Federal Disbursements Committee, respectively — told Inman in June 2022 that NAR’s RPAC and its state subsidiaries are bipartisan and will continue to support legislators on both sides of the aisle, with disbursements almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.
In November 2020, NAR passed its Standard of Practice, also known as the hate speech provision, which cracks down on racist and anti-discriminatory speech and behavior when Realtors are both on and off the clock. A major test to this was the Missoula pastor and (now former) Realtor Brandon Huber who was accused of violating Article 10 in 2021 after pulling his church’s support of the Missoula Food Bank due to the bank’s decision to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month and allegedly making anti-LGBTQ statements.
“Huber sued NAR and the Montana Organization of Realtors for religious discrimination — a claim that fell flat in the Missoula District Court. MOR’s Board of Ethics eventually found Huber guilty of violating Article 10 but said he could retain membership after paying a $5,000 fine and completing sensitivity training. Huber declined and instead decided to end his real estate career,” McPherson wrote.
Where’s the line?
The Alliance and others, like Dr. Lee Davenport in Atlanta, would like to see more vetting for candidates that RPAC supports. Troy Palmquist, of the brokerage DOORA, and Hite question where the line is for code of ethics enforcement around trash-talk, anti-wokism and public commentary on social media. And even on NAR’s own site, there are comments that are questionable, according to Morrison. It’s uncharted territory that sprawls across the entire internet. So what is the way forward?
What Erin Morrison wants us to take away from all of this
Below is the conversation that Inman had with Morrison on Tuesday, six days after her WomanUP! appearance. It has been edited for clarity and length.
Inman: Tell us what’s going on with anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. How many bills are there?
Morrison: We’ve got some discrepancies depending on the reporting entity. There are some reports that we’re seeing upward of 700 bills. There are other reports that have been a little over 400. Regardless, this is the most anti-LGBTQ legislation that we have ever seen toward our community.
So definitely, it’s something that we’re watching from an organizational standpoint. Sadly, we don’t have the manpower to watch every single piece of legislation to see where it’s heading. So we’re dependent on resources like HRC and ACLU to follow up on that. But it’s definitely something that we’re mindful of; our community and our members are very aware and letting us know what’s out there. And it’s a big concern.
At WomanUP!, you mentioned some recent data. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
The stats that I rattled off in that speech are from GLAAD’s most recent report, which I think was released about two weeks ago. So in that report, it was all about the comfortability level of non-LGBTQ Americans [among the 3,000 or so people they surveyed], and it was over 90 percent basically said that they were not in favor of the discrimination that they were seeing toward our community.
And that’s really what we’re trying to lean in on is that the majority of Americans, at least those that were surveyed, are telling us that they love us, and they don’t like seeing these discriminatory bills and legislation toward our community.
With so many bills working their way through government, are there any that are particularly eye-opening? What are you following?
We stay in our purview of housing, so while we are very aware of legislation being passed in states like, you know, Florida and Texas that ban gender-affirming care, does it specifically impact housing and impact our organization? Not directly, but we’re definitely still monitoring that because we do have members of our community that are reaching out to us because they’re trying to flee these states so that they can give this gender-affirming care to their children.
So while it’s not directly related to housing, we’re still watching these gender-affirming care bills, anti-trans bills. That’s really about all that we’re watching right now. I don’t know of any that are specifically related to other members of the LGBTQ community. It’s really, unfortunately, just our trans siblings that are getting the brunt of this right now. And I’ll be very honest; it’s the low-hanging fruit. And it’s the easiest of our community to attack right now.
And it’s no secret within our community that once they’ve come after our trans siblings, we’re next.
When you’re connecting with families who are fleeing these anti-LGBTQ+ bills, what does that look like?
[Bob McCrainey had] 240 leads signed up over the last 14 days. These are 240 potential families just last week, that registered only through him, that are very nervous and looking to leave discriminatory states.
We did a kind of a loose poll on our membership Facebook page, asking other members that are also leaving, and I want to say we’ve gotten maybe 10 or 12 responses from those that feel comfortable telling us that they’re helping people.
I can tell you I have two allied agents here in Austin that I spoke about at WomanUP! that are also aiding a total of three families to get out of Austin … Members of our community reached out to us as Realtors to help them connect with other Realtors or agents across the country in “safe” states to ensure that they’re going to be safe throughout this entire process, right?
They have enough to worry about with their safety. The last thing they want to worry about is if they’re going to pair up with an agent that may have different thoughts about our community or an escrow officer or an attorney or a lender. They just want to make sure that the whole process, they’re not going to be judged or discriminated against. And so at least we can provide that for them.
Do you have fears for your own safety currently?
The biggest thing right now that we’re afraid of is, honestly, for our child … With everything that’s happening, specifically in my state, I don’t want my daughter to experience any hate. My wife and I, we can deal with it, but my child, who has no deciding factor in this at all — is she going to have issues at school? Is she going to get bullied? Is she going to get hurt? I don’t ever want her to know or see that there’s anything wrong with the love that we have as a family or that our family unit is wrong or an abomination. I don’t ever want that for her.
You mentioned the code of ethics. Do you feel like agents are abiding by that right now?
It’s interesting you say that because … if you go and look at NAR’s Pride posts, the comments on there from other Realtors or brokers are very disheartening. And I think some of those comments on there could be good arguments for Article 10 infractions against the code of ethics. It’s a sticky subject right now because a lot of people are leaning on their religion as their protected class, and then we’re trying to fight for our protected class. So there’s some stickiness in there, for sure.
And for those who are unfamiliar with Article 10, can you elaborate?
Article 10 basically says that you cannot discriminate against the protected classes. There’s no hate speech, nothing on social media or anything like that. Basically, you are representing the Realtor brand 24/7. Even on your own personal Facebook pages and social media pages, etc.
You also discussed the book bans onstage. Tell us more.
I think the biggest thing for our community that’s concerning about that is that there’s no representation for our youth. And to be very clear, I don’t want my child knowing what happens behind closed doors with anybody. This is all about age-appropriate text … for instance, my daughter, being able to check out a book that has references to families looking different. They can have two moms or a dad and a grandma, something as simple as that.
And those are being pulled from the shelf. So any kind of representation for our kids is now gone. Any kind of history potentially with our community is going to be pulled.
What can we be doing as allies?
Just let your clients who are part of our community know that you love and you support them without judgment. And that you’re here to help in whatever way that may be.
A lot of times our community, and this is across the country and across all spaces, not just in real estate, but we’re to the point now where we’re really nervous to tell people if we’re part of our community. We don’t know if we talk to someone if they’re going to be welcoming to us. Will they want to accept and work with us? So if you have someone that has been brave enough and comfortable enough to come out to you and ask for your help, thank them for coming out to you and trusting you with that because it’s a really scary time for us. And then treat them with love and respect.
“We just need more voices. We need the majority to get loud instead of the loud minority right now … We just need everybody to be vocal and be loud and say that this is not right.” — Erin Morrison