First Person: Biden, Housing and the LGBTQ+ Community

We woke up on January 21 to a different President. And for the LGBTQ community it literally was the dawn of a new era. President Biden wasted no time in making good on his campaign promise to restore rights to the LGBTQ community and make enactment of the Equality Act a top legislative priority.

He issued an executive order to combat discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity not even two hours after his inauguration as the 46th president of the United States. By the time you read this, he’ll also order that transgender Americans can once again serve in the Armed Forces.

President Biden has long been a committed supporter of the LQBTQ community and played a key role in Obama administration policies. He is proud to call fellow Delawarean Sarah McBride, the country’s first transgender state senator, his friend. He even penned the forward to her 2018 book, Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality.

As the President fills out his Cabinet, he’s been reaching into the LGBTQ+ community to do so with nominations such as Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation. One pick stands out for me. Dr. Rachel Levine, a pediatrician and former Pennsylvania physician general was chosen to be Assistant Secretary of Health. She is poised to become the first openly transgender federal official confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Clearly, seeing LGBTQ+ people in high-profile positions along with a supportive President makes an impactful difference. But that’s not the only place things are changing. We’re seeing more LGBTQ+ representation on TV, in on-demand programing like Netflix, in movies and in advertising. Characters like “David” on Schitt’s Creek, “James” or “Payton” in The Politician, or RuPaul’s character “Robert” in AJ and the Queen are pushing society to become more accepting and comfortable with same sex couples, as well as trans, and non-binary characters who have previously been invisible.

I think it’s critical to point out that our community is growing. If you Google (pretty sure that’s a verb) What percentage of the population is LGBTQ+?, you’ll see estimates of 4% to 5% from a variety of mainstream sources. But, GLAAD said the number is much greater. In fact, GLAAD reported that 20% of millennials identify as LGBTQ+, and 12% of the general population identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume the actual number is 10%. Now, consider that households are made of up 3.15 people according to Statista. That means that for every three homes in our neighborhoods, there’s likely at least one LGBTQ+ person. One in every three homes! It therefore stands to reason that almost every American is related to, or close to, an LGBTQ+ person.

Yes, as Bob Dylan said, “The times, they are a changing.” If you look at the last 15 years, it’s encouraging to realize how much love is out there for our community. As a result, younger generations feel more comfortable owning their truth and embracing themselves and their friends for who they are.

With this administration, the Equality Act will find its way through Congress. Among other things, this piece of monumental legislation will ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity and expression will finally be under federal anti-discrimination protection. Why do we specifically care in this industry? Well, there is incredible buying power in the LGBTQ+ community and fewer than half of the States in this nation protect us from housing and credit discrimination. You read that right, LGBTQ+ people are currently NOT protected under federal Fair Housing laws.

The Equality Act first was introduced in the late 1970s by New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug. But it never got out of committee despite being reintroduced repeatedly. On May 17, 2019, not only did it come to the floor of the House, but it passed easily—236-173—only to stall under Mitch McConnell in the Senate and eventually fade.

While we were hopeful the new iteration would be introduced in the first 100 days of the Biden administration, we recognize that COVID-19 and the resulting economic crisis must come first. America must protect all of her people, and the immediate health crisis plaguing this country killing hundreds of thousands takes precedent. We can wait another month or two if it means saving American lives from a pandemic.

Like the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling of 2015 and last year’s ruling that we can’t be fired for being LGBTQ+, the Equality Act will be a remarkable boost to the confidence and psyche of our community. We’re grateful that so many have signed onto the Equality Act as corporate sponsors. Equally, we’re thankful the National Association of Realtors® and so many of our other LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance partners who paved the way for our industry to champion diversity, equality and inclusion.

On behalf of all of us in the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, thank you for what you’ve already done as members of and allies to our community. And, thank you in advance for all you will continue to do in the future. 2021 offers us all opportunity. As the late U.S. Senator from Minnesota, Paul Wellstone once simply said, “We all do better when we all do better.”

Ryan is the CEO and Co-Founder of The Alliance which officially launched in October 2020. He has spent the past 10 years in the mortgage industry as a Loan Officer. Most recently, he was at U.S. Bank after spending six years at Wells Fargo. He also launched RAW Insight, an organizational development consulting firm. Prior to his lending career, Ryan held a variety of senior roles with firms in operations and event management. He has served on the Minnesota RealtorsⓇ Diversity and Inclusion Committee and previously led the NAGLREP Foundation, along with being a past-President of the organization’s Minnesota chapter. The University of St. Thomas grad completed his Masters work in Organizational Leadership from St. Catherine University.