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Leahy to amend immigration bill for gay couples

Vt. senator proposes two measures to protect bi-national families

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Patrick Leahy, United States Senate, Democratic Party, Vermont, gay news, Washington Blade
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) will amend immigration reform to include UAFA (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) will amend immigration reform to include UAFA. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The lead sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act in the Senate has announced that he’ll introduce the legislation as one of two committee amendments for gay couples as part of comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement on Tuesday that he filed the measure — which would enable gay Americans to sponsor their foreign partners for residency in the United States — along with several other amendments before the committee for the immigration bill.

“For immigration reform to be truly comprehensive, it must include protections for all families,” Leahy said. “We must end the discrimination that gay and lesbian families face in our immigration law.”

According to the statement, Leahy also filed a separate amendment that would provide equal protection to lawfully married bi-national same sex couples that other spouses receive under existing immigration law.

Jessica Brady, a committee spokesperson, said the UAFA-like amendment covers permanent partners, but the other measure is for bi-national same-sex couples who are married. The amendment for permanent partners can be found here and the amendment for married couples can be found here.

LGBT advocates have said they previously received assurances that Leahy would offer UAFA as an amendment when the committee marks up the bill, but Leahy’s announcement is the first time that he’s publicly committed to offering the amendment.

Steve Ralls, spokesperson for the LGBT group Immigration Equality, said his organization “fully supports” both amendments and is optimistic they will find majority support in committee.

“We expect in the coming days that the chairman will, as he has so far, work to get the votes for a successful amendment in committee,” Ralls said. “We have every faith that we’re going to win.”

All committee amendments to comprehensive immigration reform are due at 5 p.m. The committee is scheduled to vote Friday on the first round of amendments. Subsequent votes are slated for May 14, May 16, May 20 and every day that follows until there’s a final vote on the bill. Chances are the amendments for gay inclusion will come up on one of these later days.

Leahy files this second amendment that would only apply to married same-sex couples after Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who had previously withheld support for UAFA, was quoted in Politico as saying she he had concerns about the legislation as currently written, but would accept it with certain changes.

The California Democrat reportedly said she’d vote for the amendment if it required gay couples to marry in the United States within 90 days in a state that allows same-sex unions.

“But I’m not for just accepting affidavits,” she reportedly added.

Plans for a vote on the amendment come as Republican senators among the “Gang of Eight” who produced the base immigration bill have spoken out against its inclusion in reform. A piece last week from Politico quoted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) as saying it would “virtually guarantee” the legislation won’t pass.

“This issue is a difficult enough issue as it is,” Rubio was quoted as saying. “I respect everyone’s views on it. But ultimately, if that issue is injected into this bill, the bill will fail and the coalition that helped put it together will fall apart.”

Leahy had previously commented on these assertions on Sunday during the NBC’s “Meet the Press” when asked by host David Gregory to respond to Republican criticism that including the measure in immigration reform would kill the legislation.

“You know, we’ve had about 10 different things that people say will kill it,” Leahy said. “If we don’t make the fence long enough, that kills it. If we don’t have a high enough fine, that kills it. Well, the fact is, a lot of people want to kill an immigration bill, no matter what.”

On Sunday, President Obama weighed on the matter when asked about it during a news conference in Costa Rica, reiterating his support for including gay couples immigration reform while maintaing both sides in the immigration debate will have to accept compromise.

“I can tell you I think that the provision is the right thing to do,” Obama said. “I’ll also tell you that I’m not going to get everything I want in this bill. Republicans are not going to get everything they want in this bill.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the Human Rights Campaign sent out a statement to members of the media responding to GOP claims that they’d scuttle immigration reform over gay-inclusion in the bill.

“If they end up doing that, they should just own it and call it what it is: homophobia,” said Fred Sainz, HRC’s vice president of communications. “Labeling the inclusion of bi-national couples in the immigration bill as toxic is nothing more than a tired, insulting ruse designed to distract attention from their own failure to represent all Americans.”

The HRC statement cites statistics on the overwhelming support that LGBT rights enjoy among the American public. Among them are polls showing 58 percent support for marriage equality and 73 percent support for employment non-discrimination protections. No statistics on UAFA were provided in the statement.

“There is a jarring disconnect between the American public and these senators when it comes to issues of LGBT equality,” Sainz concluded. “It’s pretty dated to consider LGBT equality as a controversial, hot-button issue like these senators are portraying it to be. In fact, a strong and diverse majority of Americans support equality. These senators are towing a tired line that no longer represents mainstream opinion, and they’re throwing same-sex couples under the bus in the process.”

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Bars & Parties

Beyonce vs. Rihanna dance party

Music provided by DJ Just Different at Union Stage

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R² Productions LLC and Union Stage are teaming up to host  R² Productions’ inaugural “MEGA Dance Party” on Thursday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. at Union Stage at The Wharf.

The event will be a night full of dancing to music by pop stars Beyonce and Rihanna. DJ Just Different will be performing at the event. 

General Admission tickets cost $25 and Premier Plus tickets cost $35. For more information about ticket purchases, visit Union Stage’s website.

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Miscellaneous

The evolution of the open house

The more sophisticated the advertising, the more the events flourished

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From car giveaways in the 1950s to today’s QR codes and virtual events, agents have used diverse strategies to draw buyers to open houses.

In the early 20th century, there were no exclusive agreements between a seller and a real estate agent. Any broker who knew of someone wanting to sell could participate in an “open listing” by planting his sign in the yard of that person and competing with agents from other brokerages who did the same. To the victor who obtained a buyer went the spoils of commission.

The rules began to change in 1919, when being a real estate broker now required a license. An agent might handle only one property at a time exclusively, but an “open for inspection” period could be used to introduce a model home or new community to the buying population. 

According to the National Association of Realtors, Dallas homebuilder, Howdy Howard, hosted one of the most successful open houses of all time in the 1950s. During the first 12 days of the event, an estimated 100,000 people attended, drawn by free sodas and the ultimate prize for the buyer – a new Cadillac.

Soon, brokers began hiring additional agents who could handle multiple properties. Unlike Howard’s marathon open house, agents would now host them for a few hours at a time, usually on a Sunday, to whet the appetite of the buyer pool. 

Classified advertisements with a description of a property would be placed in a local newspaper and potential buyers would review them with their morning coffee to decide which houses to visit later in the day. 

Marketing in newspapers went from a few lines of black and white text to a photo of a home’s exterior, to a multi-page spread that included both photos of houses and the agents who represented them.

The more sophisticated the advertising became, the more the open house flourished as a marketing tool, not only for the home itself, but also for the agent and the brokerage. It allowed agents to prospect for buyers for that home and others, and converse with neighbors who might want to sell their homes as well. 

Soon, the sign-in sheet was born, used by the agent to capture the contact information of a potential client or customer and to let the seller know who had visited his home. While sign-in sheets or cards are still used, some agents have gravitated to electronic applications, using a tablet computer instead of paper for the same purpose.

Fast forward to the early 2000s in D.C., when open houses became the primary source of showing property. An agent would enter a property into the multiple listing service (MLS) on a Thursday, entertain no showings until Saturday, host an open house on Sunday afternoon, and call for offers either Sunday night or Monday. The open house allowed agents to send their buyers rather than accompany them and serve multiple clients at once.  

The delayed showing day strategy referenced above has since been supplanted by the MLS’s Coming Soon status. Agents can now email or text links to upcoming properties to their clients in advance of showing availability and the clients can view photos, read property descriptions and disclosures, and schedule future visits accordingly.

Enter COVID-19. Due to the proliferation of the virus and the subsequent lockdown, the real estate world had to accommodate new public health requirements. 

One of the first things to go was the open house. Even agent showings were constrained, with visitors limited to an agent plus two people and additional requirements for wearing masks and disposable shoe covers and gloves. 

Overlapping appointments were not allowed, showings were limited to 15 to 30 minutes, and bottles of hand sanitizer sprung up on kitchen counters everywhere.

Ultimately, technology and ingenuity provided new marketing avenues for agents that included 3-D virtual open houses, Facetime and Duo viewings, videos, property websites and QR codes. Many of these marketing techniques remain, even though traditional open houses are coming back post-lockdown.

But are they really necessary? Certainly not for all types of properties. 

I believe the days of using a public open house to procure a buyer are limited. Agent security has become a concern and the desire for in-person viewings during a specific day or time has waned. 

On the other hand, Internet marketing and social media have a much wider reach, so much so that some people now feel comfortable buying a home – probably the most expensive item they will ever purchase – without even stepping into it until after closing.

After all, if we can work in sweatpants or pajamas while Zooming corporate meetings, how can naked virtual reality house hunting be far behind?

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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