Comments made by Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Putin’s Barbie Dream House) in support of barring home sales to gay would-be buyers just cost the veteran Orange County congressman the steady support of the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
Contributions from NAR to Rohrabacher campaigns go back to 1997—he’s been listed as a “Realtor Champion”—and since December alone the congressman had received $5,000 through the association’s President’s Circle donation program.
The ditch Dana movement began after a meeting Rohrabacher had with a delegation of Orange County real estate professionals visiting Washington, D.C. Among them was Wayne Woodyard, a longtime Realtor and broker whose Monarch Beach agency serves cities within the lawmaker’s 48th Congressional District, including Aliso Viejo, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel and Newport Beach.
Woodyard is also a heavyweight in real estate circles, having served as a director of NAR and the California Association of Realtors as well as president of the Orange County Association of Realtors. He’s also a member of the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP), and he asked Rohrabacher about House Resolution 1447, which was introduced last year by Representative Scott Taylor (R-Virginia) to expand protections of the 1963 Fair Housing Act. That legislation forbids housing discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, disability, familial status or national origin. Taylor’s bill would add sexual-orientation and gender-orientation protections.
The NAR’s code of ethics already includes such protections for members of the LGBT community, so Woodyard figured Rohrabacher backing HR1447 was a no-brainer. The Realtor was wrong, saying the congressman became “unglued” after he was asked about the bill. “He refused to support and was adamant that every homeowner should be able to make a decision not to sell their home to someone that they don’t agree with their ‘lifestyle,’” says Woodyard in a NAGLREP statement.
Woodyard summed up the encounter in a Facebook post and that sparked a letter to NAR from NAGLREP, whose policy committee chairman John Graff wrote, “Dana Rohrabacher’s outrageous comments sadly aren’t too surprising given his history of contempt for the equal rights of the LGBT community.
“Elected officials who espouse views so contrary to the fair housing commitment of [NAR] do not deserve the political support of the organization nor the title of ‘Realtor Champion,’” Graff added. “To do so belittles the Realtor Code of Ethics and harms our collective commitment to fair housing.”
Rectifying a history of exclusion had been the theme of NAR’s midyear board of directors meeting, where members voted to “actively recommend and seek legislation to provide for equal housing opportunity based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
On May 22, a NAR quietly confirmed it dropped Rohrabacher.
“It was determined that Rep. Rohrabacher will no longer receive support from NAR’s President’s Circle,” states the association said in a press release. “We certainly hope that Congress will … support the elimination of housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”
But Rohrabacher doubled down two days after NAR ditched him, via the Orange County Register. (I’d add the link, but the Reg makes you pay to read their stories online nowadays.)
“We’ve drawn a line on racism, but I don’t think we should extend that line,” the congressman reportedly said. “A homeowner should not be required to be in business with someone they think is doing something that is immoral.”
Later, Rohrabacher is reported to have acknowledged his position would lose him support, adding “It’s sad to see [NAR’s] priority is standing in solidarity with making sure a stamp of approval is put on somebody’s private lifestyle.”
“Under no circumstances can we allow Congressman Rohrabacher and others to think that discrimination against LGBTQ people is acceptable here in California, or across the country,” says Equality California, an LGBTQ civil rights organization, in an email blast today.
“It’s 2018, and thanks to closed-minded people like Rep. Rohrabacher, LGBTQ Americans are still being treated like second-class citizens. We’ve fought for too long and too hard to allow hateful and discriminatory statements to fly under the radar.”
The email then invites readers to sign their names to a message that will be sent to Rohrabacher, stating “that his hate is not welcome here in California—or anywhere in America—and we will do everything in our power to vote people like him out of office.” The petition is here: http://action.eqca.org/No-LGBTQ-Discrimination.
Rick Zbur, the executive director of Equality California, which has endorsed Democrat Harley Rouda in the 48th race, tells The Advocate, “Californians decided years ago that we don’t support housing discrimination—not based on race, not based on religion and not based on sexual orientation or gender identity. And while Dana Rohrabacher may think it’s OK to discriminate against people because of who they are or whom they love, Orange County families don’t. His full-throated endorsement of discrimination is just one more reason that Rohrabacher doesn’t deserve to represent Orange County in Congress.”
Oh, there’s more reasons than than, Rickie. Check this out, from OnTheIssues.org:
It should surprise no one that Rohrabacher’s comments, and the widespread condemnation of them, energized the campaigns of opponents aiming to retire him from the 48th district seat–especially in light of polling that suggests the incumbent will definitely advance beyond the June 5 primary to November’s general election, when he will face the second-highest vote-getter.
The most profuse criticism came from Democrat Hans Keirstead, whose campaign released this statement on Thursday:
Rouda, who happens to be the son of a former NAR president, the late Harley Rouda Sr., reacted via Twitter:
So did a third Democrat, Omar Siddiqui:
Twitter was also the forum of choice from Republican candidate Paul Martin:
Scott Baugh, the Republican who could very well end up facing off against Rohrabacher in November because of California’s “jungle” primary system, reacted to his former friend’s real estate comment with stony silence.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.