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Is sexual orientation discrimination in housing legal? Maybe.

lbgt couple

Can landlords legally deny renting to a gay couple because they’re gay? Can a Realtor refuse to negotiate on behalf of a transgendered woman because she’s transgendered? Can a builder jack up the price of a home when selling to a bisexual male because they know he’s bisexual? Maybe- there’s a little bit of a grey area here.

If you’re a licensed Realtor, you should have memorized the Fair Housing laws prohibiting discrimination against anyone based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap. But nowhere in there does it mention sexual orientation.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, laws are different from state to state and in some it is most certainly illegal for the real estate industry to discriminate, but in some states, the GLBTQ community is still legally discriminated against and refused real estate services and equal housing opportunities.

To go above and beyond local, state and national laws, Realtors have always upheld the National Association of Realtors’ Code of Ethics wherein Article 10 outlines the “Duties to the Public” which reflects the national Fair Housing law that forbids denying services for reasons of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap. Nowhere in the code are Realtors required to serve anyone with sexual orientation disagreeable to them. Until now…

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According to the NAR, the Code of Ethics Article 10 has been amended:
Article 10: Equal Rights Amendment Passes:
The NAR Delegate Body approved an amendment to Article 10 of the Code of Ethics to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In a roll-call vote, more than 93 percent of the Delegate Body voted in favor of the amendment. The Delegate Body decision confirms a vote by the Board of Directors in May.

As a personal note, AG strongly supports and applauds the measure taken that Realtors’ ethics supersede federal law so that no matter if it is legal or not locally, discrimination based on sexual orientation will not be tolerated from Realtors, a measure taken by Realtors. This amendment however will come with some possibly negative ramifications which we will be discussing in the future.

We believe housing to be a basic human right that no one should be denied and we are astonished that anyone (especially the 7% that voted against the Article 10 amendment) would find it necessary to discriminate because of sexual orientation and we hope HUD follows in NAR’s footsteps in this case.

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Daniel Bates

    November 9, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I’m more worried “they” will get word of this and create “gay only” housing with better amenities, jobs, schools, etc and exclude us from joining. :-p

    • Sheila Wall Bell

      November 9, 2010 at 7:29 pm

      If ratified in May that would be a flagrant violation of the COE and likely would be dealt with strongly by most local associations given the 93% support.

  2. Nathan Hughes

    November 9, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Thank you for reporting on this important issue! I had no idea this amendment was even up for voting, but I’m glad to hear that it went through.

    If the legislators aren’t going to do what’s right, then I’m glad that we can implement these changes amongst our own Code of Ethics to make a difference.

    It is times like this that especially make me proud to be a Realtor.

  3. Don Fabrizio-Garcia

    November 9, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    It’s about time, NAR. It is 2010, after all.
    I read a few months ago that HUD is currently investigating whether gays are discriminated against, which I understood to mean is the first step in determining whether gays should be considered a protected class and therefore protected by Federal Fair Housing laws.

  4. Sheila Rasak

    November 9, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    I look foward with full cooperation to the addenums that will follow for this this important issue!

  5. Francces Flynn Thorsen

    November 9, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    This amendment was long overdue.

    Congress can amend Fair Housing Law. HUD cannot do that. HUD is an agency … HUD can issue guidelines, it cannot mandate law. It enforces Fair Housing Law, it cannot create the law.

    There are state and county and municipalities across the country who have done the right thing, established sexual orientation as a protected class.

    Let’s see the Federal Government do likewise.

    • Sheila Wall Bell

      November 9, 2010 at 7:32 pm

      FFT: Totally agree-as (almost) usual! 😎 I am so proud-93% approval! WOW

      • Francces Flynn Thorsen

        November 10, 2010 at 8:08 am

        NAR is following HUD’s lead, actually. Last year HUD suggested Congress add an amendment to the Fair Housing Law …

  6. Linsey Planeta

    November 9, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    I would be doing backflips if I didn’t think it was so long overdue. But I’m thrilled nonetheless.

  7. Bryan Thompson

    November 10, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Lani, I agree that it’s about time this amendment went through. It isn’t everything, but it is a step in the right direction. Regardless of someone’s political or religious ideology, it’s never right to deny someone a place to live. Good thoughts here!

  8. Ken Montville

    November 10, 2010 at 10:22 am

    This is a wonderful thing but, unfortunately, mostly symbolic. Enforcement of the COE is so rare as to be almost non-existent. Good intentions, for sure. Practical application? Not so much.

  9. Diana Hoyt

    November 10, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    New Hampshire fair housing laws go above the federal fair housing laws of: race, color, national origin, disability, sex religion and familial status to include protect against discrimination of sexual orientation and age.

  10. Pingback: Most same-sex couples denied when applying for a mortgage [study]

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