Monday, May 8, 2017

Half-truths, phony assurances from Mayor Stothert on LGBT housing protections during final election debate

Yesterday, KETV cohosted the final debate between State Senator Heath Mello and Mayor Jean Stothert, both running (or rerunning) for Mayor in an election that has attracted national coverage here, here and elsewhere, due in part to tension between grassroots Democrats and the DNC and because it is the first significant local election following the GOP House overthrow of Obamacare.
     (Last week's elections in Nebraska's capitol, Lincoln, flipped that city's council from a GOP to a Democrat majority.)
     For four minutes (47:31 to 51:31 in the clip above), Omaha's mayoral candidates discussed the hole in Omaha's LGBT protections: housing.
     Mayor Stothert, who voted twice against LGBT job bias protection passed in Omaha in 2012, appointed an LGBT Advisory Board in December of 2016 (during her reelection campaign) and preposterously told KETV that her position on LGBT equal rights was misunderstood.
    Stothert took office on June 10, 2013. Omaha's gay day parade, held later that month, moved to another state (Council Bluffs, Iowa, across the Missouri River) and hasn't been held here since.
     The Omaha World-Herald, a two-time Stothert endorser, proffered this excuse in 2013: "...because of the College World Series — and the police manpower required for it — organizers moved the parade to Council Bluffs." What the World-Herald didn't bother to remind its readers: the CWS and the US Olympic swimming trials overlapped in 2012 and 2016 and will again in 2020.
     Either OPD just can't multitask under a GOP mayor like it used to in Democrat Jim Suttle's administration, or LGBTs have become bigly more rowdy during Stothert's reign.
    During the debate, Stothert deceptively claimed that LGBT housing protections aren't needed in Omaha because they are protected by "federal law." (When she opposed LGBT workplace protections in 2012 she defended housing carve-outs because of religious objections.)
     Her current rationale is a half-truth at best, and stems from a Colorado lawsuit decided by a federal judge in favor of a lesbian couple prevented from renting a townhouse because one was a transgender female whose gender nonconformance bothered the landlord.
     Below is what HUD actually says about the issue on its website.
The Fair Housing Act does not specifically include sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited bases. However, discrimination against a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) person may be covered by the Fair Housing Act if it is based on non-conformity with gender stereotypes.
    In other words, lipstick lesbians and butch boys who DO conform to gender stereotypes weren't covered by the decision; HUD's website makes that perfectly clear. Since most LGBTs DO conform to gender stereotypes and are indistinguishable from most straights, they WEREN'T covered by the decision, which makes Stothert's phony assurances a Big Fat Lie.
     (Click on the above HUD link pronto, dear readers, before the Trump administration and/or Ben Carson change the rules or make the web page disappear.)
Click above graphic to enlarge and read
     If it's really true that Stothert's pet LGBTs bought her administration's line that federal "law" (really regulations) covers them, we say this: Do your damn homework before you discuss LGBT housing bias policies with a slick mayor who is a past master at snowing the gullible. 
      In respect of Heath Mello, he seemed unaware that some antiLGBT bias in private housing is addressed by HUD.
     Also, his concern about discrimination against gay couples in buying houses, (as opposed to renting them) may be exaggerated, though not completely misplaced. The National Association of Realtors (to which not all real estate agents belong) bans bias against LGBTs and, where financing is concerned, HUD has this to say, on the page linked to above:
In addition, housing providers that receive HUD funding or have loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), as well as lenders insured by FHA, are subject to HUD’s Equal Access Rule, which requires equal access to HUD programs without regard to a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.
      These are rules, not laws, and presumably could be changed by Trump's HUD or FHA. They also don't cover transactions not involving FHA loans, FHA-insured lenders or HUD funding.

     AKSARBENT's transcript of yesterday's debate on LGBT housing bias:

Julie Cornell, KETV: Senator Mello, should LGBTQ individuals be a protected class at the city level?
Heath Mello: Julie that's a great question and I believe, yes: I think the lgbtq+ community should be a protected class in the city level and that's why I supported the existing city ordinance back when it was passed in 2012.
You're asking if I know that smiling directly into a TV camera
while talking is allowed during a political debate?
That's a great question!
     I'm convinced — some of my work in the Nebraska legislature — we tried to bring Republicans, Democrats and Independents together to try to craft a compromise to do a very similar approach at the state level.
     Unfortunately, we were unable to build the consensus needed to bring that legislation forward, but luckily the city of Omaha has an ordinance that provides protections to the LGBTQ+ community when it comes to employment.
     The concern I've heard from people across the community is in regards to housing. The city's ordinance is very narrow, specifically only regarding employment in some public accommodations, where housing is something I've heard consistently being brought up where someone should not be discriminated against, whether they rent a property or they try to buy a property, simply because of who they love. I think that's something that [unintelligible] to create a welcoming and inclusive city. Omaha needs to consider moving forward if the legislature is unable to pass a more comprehensive bill at the State Capitol
Greetings, LGBTQ's! Wanna buy a pedestrian bridge?
How about a downtown library in a prime location?
Rob McCartney, KETV: Senator, thank you. Mayor Stothert?
Jean Stothert:
The LGBTQ+ community is a protected class with the city of Omaha, and just recently, when it was being discussed in the legislature, I did support that to — be a protected class.
     Now I will say this: as far as our ordinance that we have now, yes, it does address employment but I have created an LGBT advisory and we have been working with them, with that group, on concerns that they have and in the city of Omaha so that we can address it and their voice could be heard.
     Just the last meeting, our Human Rights and Relations Department was at that meeting and they brought up the issue of fair housing and they were very relieved to understand and to find out that they are already protected. It doesn't need to be added to our ordinance and they are protected as far as fair housing goes under federal law, but after these meetings with this LGBT advisory that I had, they have already made many suggestions to us that we are already acting on — in fact the HRR, Human rights and Relations Department, right now is reviewing and altering and amending a lot of the material that we have, as far as fair housing and other issues to add LGBTQ rights to that and so we are working together; we want to identify what those issues are and we want to address them, but as far as fair housing — adding it to the city ordinance — we just recently found out from our HRR Department that they are already protected by the federal law and that it was unnecessary and our LGBT advisory was happy to hear that.
Rob McCartney: ... Senator Mello, 30 seconds.
Heath Mello: Well I think what the mayor is referring to is the fair housing component, is dealing with public housing, which is true: that public housing at the federal level is protected, but in talking with a number of organizations and concerned citizens around the city, private housing is not protected and I think that is why we've seen an effort in the legislature to expand rights and equality through LB173 this year, but unfortunately that policy did not pass. I believe this city is going to need to consider stepping in if the legislature's unable to pass a more comprehensive state law that includes both employment and private housing, moving forward.
Rob McCartney, KETV: Senator, thank you. Mayor Stothert, 30 seconds.
Jean Stothert: I would just say again that we have an open dialogue with the LGBTQ community and they were informed by our HRR department that they are protected as far as fair housing is, according to federal law but I want to make it very clear again a lot of the suggestions that they are making, we are changing, you know, what our information is that we give out to everyone in the community as far as these types of issues as far as fair housing and we are adding the LGBT community to it, too; we want their voice to be heard we want to hear their concerns and we are working together and together we will make Omaha a better place

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