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Another anti-transgender move from DOJ

Trump admin steps back from challenge to N.C.’s HB2

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Jeff Sessions, gay news, Washington Blade

The Justice Department under Jeff Sessions has backed off litigation challenging HB2. (Image courtesy C-Span)

After revoking guidance barring schools from discriminating against transgender students, the U.S. Justice Department has now backed off its legal challenge to the controversial anti-LGBT North Carolina state law House Bill 2.

Under former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the Justice Department last year filed a lawsuit against HB2, which bars cities from enacting LGBT ordinances and transgender people from using the restroom consistent with their gender identity. Arguing HB2 violated federal civil rights law, the Justice Department sought a request for a preliminary injunction to enjoin enforcement of the statute as the litigation proceeded.

But on Monday, the Justice Department under U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions withdrew its request for a preliminary injunction, which remained outstanding during the shift between the Obama and Trump administrations.

That filing followed an unopposed request from the department last week to allow an existing, but narrower, injunction instead to take place of the broader injunction the U.S. government once sought to ban enforcement of the law in its totality. The court granted that request.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder issued the existing preliminary injunction against HB 2 as a result of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina and Lambda Legal, but that order only barred the University of North Carolina from enforcing the law and as it pertained to the plaintiffs in their capacity as students and employees.

The litigation filed against HB2 continues to proceed, but at a slow pace. The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is set May 10 to hear arguments in the case filed by the ACLU, ACLU of North Carolina and Lambda Legal, which appealed the narrow preliminary injunction to seek a more expansive injunction before the federal appeals court.

In a joint statement to Washington Blade, the ACLU and Lambda criticized the Justice Department for withdrawing its request for a preliminary injunction, accusing the administration of falling short in its duty to protect civil rights.

“Under Jeff Sessions, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice is systematically working to stop and rollback the gains of the last eight years,” the organizations said. “DOJ’s latest filing in North Carolina to delay the ruling on their motion for preliminary injunction against HB2 further indicates an unwillingness to protect the rights of transgender people, and accordingly, we must redouble our efforts to enforce our civil rights under the law.”

The Justice Department’s decision to back off its litigation against HB2 is consistent with other anti-trans actions the department has made under Sessions. Last month, the Justice and Education departments revoked guidance assuring transgender students have access to the restroom in schools consistent with their gender identity, prompting the U.S. Supreme Court to scrap consideration of whether Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 affords those protections to transgender students nationwide.

The department withdrew an appeal of a court order against the now rescinded transgender student guidance and missed a deadline to file an appeal of another court order barring enforcement of a regulation assuring transgender people have access to health care, including gender reassignment surgery.

The Justice Department declined to comment in response to a Washington Blade inquiry on whether the withdrawal of the request for a preliminary injunction indicates the administration will soon rescind its lawsuit altogether.

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Miscellaneous

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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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