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House approves ‘Harry Truman’ amendment to restore trans military service

Speier amendment part of NDAA by 242-187 vote

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Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), second from right, join transgender service members in the Capitol Rotunda before the State of the Union Address on Feb. 5, 2019. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. House approved on Thursday an amendment as part of major defense policy legislation that would not only restore only transgender military service, but prohibit the U.S. armed forces from discriminating against LGBT service members.

The House approved the measure, introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), by a party-line vote of 242-187 as part of the fiscal year 2020 defense authorization bill.

Speier said in a statement the House vote on the amendment is “a watershed moment in the fight to celebrate and protect open transgender military service,” which the Defense Department banned in April following a directive from President Trump.

“Courageous transgender servicemembers continue to fight for our country despite the president’s hateful ban and deserve to know we stand with them,” Speier said. “Our country has a shameful history of preventing people from serving based on bias, ignorance and malice. This is the first time Congress has voted to ensure that no discriminatory standard based on race, religion, national origin or sex can prevent qualified individuals from serving their country. Our military is strongest when it embodies our nation’s values.”

Joining the united Democratic caucus in voting in favor of the bill were 10 Republicans: Reps. Susan Brooks (Ind.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Trey Hollingsworth (Ind.), William Hurd (Texas), John Katko (N.Y.), Tom Reed (N.Y.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), Steve Stivers (Ohio), Fred Upton (Mich.) and Greg Walden (Ore.).

When the vote was initially being tallied, a total of 11 Republicans, not 10, were shown as having voted in favor of the amendment. A Democratic aide said the number went down because Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) changed his vote from “yes” to “no” at the last second. The Blade has placed a request in with Waltz’s office seeking comment why on the lawmaker changed his vote.

Known as the “Harry Truman” amendment, the measure is modeled after the 1948 executive order President Truman signed desegregating the military.

The amendment states the military must consider applicants based on gender-neutral occupational standards and military occupational specialty, but “may not include any criteria relating to the race, color, national origin, religion, or sex (including gender identity or sexual orientation) of an individual.”

Further, the amendment states any Defense Department personnel policy for members of the armed forces “shall ensure equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed forces, without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, and sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation).”

Aaron Belkin, director of the San Francisco-based Palm Center, said in a statement the amendment “is the best and perhaps only way to ensure that military policy reflects what both military experts and the American public believe: That standards for military service should apply to everyone equally, based on what it takes to do the job.”

“History shows that, from President Harry Truman’s racial desegregation of the military through ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ our armed forces are stronger when they are inclusive and reflect the society they serve,” Belkin said. “The American people overwhelmingly support non-discrimination in the military and they respond with open arms when Americans of any identity perform at their peak for our national honor, whether in military or civilian life.”

Also hailing passage of the amendment was Navy veteran Andy Blevins, who’s executive director of the LGBT group Modern Military Association of America.

“This bipartisan vote sends a powerful message of support to the thousands of transgender service members that have been unconscionably singled out by this administration for discrimination,” Blevin said. “Every service member should be treated with dignity and respect, and there should be no place in the military for harmful and discriminatory policies that have nothing to do with a service member’s ability to accomplish the mission.”

The “Harry Truman” amendment wasn’t the only measure related to transgender military service the House approved as part of the defense authorization bill.

The other amendment introduced by Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) would require the U.S military to report to Congress on the number of transgender individuals who sought and were denied waivers under the transgender ban to accede into the armed forces. The House approved the measure by voice vote, according to a Democratic aide.

“Dozens of high-ranking military officials and a majority of Americans agree: transgender service members enhance readiness, make great contributions to our armed forces, and should be allowed to serve openly in our military,” Brown said in a statement. “Anyone who is capable of serving our country honorably should be afforded the opportunity to do so, and definitively knowing the number of people who are denied this opportunity because of the president’s bigoted ban is critical understanding it’s impact on our national security.”

Once the House approves the underlying defense authorization bill, lawmakers will hash out differences in conference committee between the House and Senate versions. The Senate approved its version of the bill last month. It remains to be seen whether the LGBT provision in the House version will remain intact in the conference committee agreement, but any such measure would face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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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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