I woke up this morning to some sad and frustrating news. As another city in Montana was debating about passing an ordinance which would protect LGBT individuals from discrimination the vote came down to the tie-breaker from the mayor. The mayor of Billings is also a Realtor, his name is Tom Hanel. We met once about 5 years ago. Tom is a friendly and approachable guy, he's a long-time Realtor and was a budding leader at the state level who backed off once elected as mayor of Billings.
Billings has been grappling with an NDO for a while now, other towns in Montana already have them and I recognize there's a lot of details that certain people take exception to. However in reading many of the testimonies at the hearings the Realtor in me noticed something. Many same-sex couples were being denied access to housing, usually via rental housing, in Billings. Others were experiencing hardships as same-sex homeowners simply because of their sexual preference.
Article 10 of the Realtor Code of Ethics states, "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"
The city council was knotted up at a 5-5 vote and the decision came to Mayor Hanel. A fellow Realtor was given an opportunity to cast a vote to help stop people from discriminating and preventing access to housing. Seems like a slam-dunk. Instead he voted against it and ignored the charge given to him in our very own Code of Ethics. It's a sad day for me, I can't believe any Realtor would ever want to prevent someone from gaining access to housing, be it a rental home or through home ownership.
Here's the wrap-up from the Billings Gazette: http://billingsgazette.com/news/local/government-and-politics/council-defeats-ndo-by---count/article_b0740778-d45d-55de-92a7-78a8ffa02e46.html
Here's the text of my email I sent Mr. Hanel;
We met once, very quickly, back in 2009, I believe that was right after you were elected mayor of Billings. You were at an MAR meeting in Helena and I was just getting started as a state director from Missoula. I’ve been following the NDO talks and I’ve got to say I was saddened to hear of your deciding vote against the NDO this early morning. I read your comments afterwards and I reflected upon our Realtor Code of Ethics, which states in Article 10 that “ 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. ”
I believe that as a Realtor you were given an opportunity to help fight discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation by approving the NDO last night. It frustrates me as a Realtor and I wanted to email you and let you know that. I saw many stories of people being denied access to housing and rentals because of their sexual preference or gender identity. The heart of our profession is create and advance as many opportunities as possible for EVERYONE to gain access to housing.
I am deeply disappointed in your decision because your vote goes against the Code of Ethics that you’ve sworn to uphold.