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Former Obama official calls for ENDA executive order

Gay ex-USAID staffer says president should build on his pro-LGBT record

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Barack Obama, gay news, Washington Blade
Barack Obama, gay news, Washington Blade

A gay former counsel for USAID is calling on President Obama to take action against LGBT workplace discrimination. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A gay former member of the Obama administration says it’s time  for President Obama to issue an executive order barring LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors as he touts his agency’s independent action on the issue.

In an op-ed published in Washington Post late Thursday, Jeffrey Marburg-Goodman, special counsel for the U.S. Agency for International Development and a foreign policy adviser to the 2008 Obama campaign, called on Obama to issue the order to build on his record in advancing LGBT rights.

“Although admittedly imperfect and only partial, an executive order that helps advance employment equality nationwide is overdue,” Marburg-Goodman writes.

Issuing the executive order, Marburg-Goodman writes, would build off Obama’s earlier LGBT achievements, such as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and naming a record number of LGBT government appointees.

Additionally, Marburg-Goodman says issuing the directive could be “a tipping point” that would lead to passage of legislation to protect LGBT employees known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Marburg-Goodman makes a special point of touting the work USAID has undertaken to address LGBT workplace discrimination. In October 2011, the agency issued guidance saying it “strongly encourages” its contractors to adopt non-discrimination policies for workers, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Individual federal agencies have done what they could to advance equality and reflect current American norms and values,” Marburg-Goodman said. “Last year, we at the U.S. Agency for International Development, under the leadership of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Administrator Rajiv Shah, announced the most advanced position any federal agency has taken on this issue.”

The Obama administration has repeatedly said it prefers a legislative solution to addressing LGBT workplace discrimination as opposed to issuing an executive order.

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, said Friday he has no updates on the directive in response to the op-ed piece.

“Regarding a hypothetical Executive Order on LGBT non-discrimination for federal contractors, I have no updates for you on that issue,” Inouye said.

Marburg-Goodman isn’t the first former Obama administration official to call on Obama to issue the executive order. In March 2012, Elizabeth Warren, then a candidate for U.S. Senate, endorsed the idea in an interview with the Washington Blade, saying, “Any steps that the president can take toward non-discrimination benefit the whole country.” Prior to representing Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate, Warren was special adviser for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under Obama.

Tico Almeida, president of the LGBT group Freedom to Work, praised Marburg-Goodman for calling on Obama to issue the executive order.

“I suspect some White House staffers are fairly annoyed with Mr. Marburg-Goodman for calling them out in such a high-profile way for their unforutnate desicion to delay President Obama’s executive order for LGBT workplace fairness, but I think he deserves our praise for using his stature as a distinguished Obama appointee to advocate on the LGBT workplace issues that some other administration officials have neglected for too long,” Almeida said. “I commend him for using his strong voice in favor of the pending executive order.”

Further, Almeida called on other former members of the Obama administration to speak out in favor of the executive order, including John Berry, who until last month was head of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the highest-ranking openly gay person in the Obama administration.

“It would be great if other gay former Obama appointees like John Berry followed Mr. Marburg-Goodman’s lead in advocating for this long overdue policy from the Obama Administration,” Almeida said.

Berry couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. According to the Washington Post, he’s on Obama’s short list for U.S. ambassador to Australia.

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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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