Marching for Pride, Progress, and Fair Treatment

By MNR News posted 06-16-2021 09:45 PM


Rainbow HomesAlthough the nation’s LGBTQ+ community has come a long way since the first Pride march was held in New York City in June 1970, the march for fair treatment and equality continues. Even in Minnesota, a state lauded for its progressive attitudes, much work remains to ensure that people in the LGBTQ+ community are not discriminated against, especially in the housing market. 


“We as humans will discriminate, even if we don’t think we are,” said Anthony Cardinal of RG Realty Group in Apple Valley. As a gay man, he has made it part of his mission to elevate colleagues’ awareness in the real estate business and help them understand the implicit biases that they or their clients might not be aware they are harboring. For Cardinal, this extends beyond LGBTQ+ to all protected classes. 


“It’s about bringing awareness to the forefront of our agents’ minds and making sure they know it’s our mission to protect clients’ identities and make every transaction about the numbers – not about who the buyers are.” 

 Anthony Cardinal

Fighting institutional discrimination 

Although he rarely sees blatant discrimination in his practice, Cardinal has encountered it. Last year he worked with a gay couple who had trouble obtaining financing for a home. His clients, young physicians carrying high debt from their educations, applied for a loan designed for indebted medical professionals. 


“So, these two doctors had 800-credit scores and a massive downpayment. They were going to make $180,000 a year right out of the gate. It looked very favorable at first. The pre-approval process was super smooth,” Cardinal recalled. “Then, when the lender gathered more documentation and learned they were gay, the communication dropped off very fast.” 


Reaching out to the lender several times, Cardinal’s calls and emails were not returned. After much persistence, he reached a high-ranking executive. Explaining his concerns about what appeared to be discrimination, Cardinal raised the possibility of lawsuits from his clients, himself, and the brokerage. After interviewing Cardinal and the doctors, the executive quickly approved the loan, and the clients closed on the property. 


Minnesota is marching in the right direction 

“Is this still happening out there? Yes. But it’s not a very large percentage of my transactions. It’s very minimum. And that’s definitely a positive,” Cardinal said. He added that the lender in this troubled negotiation was not based in Minnesota, and he has not seen this kind of behavior from lenders in the state. Generally, Cardinal observes, the movement for equality and fairness has been moving in the right direction. 


“Back in 2007 when I first got started, there were a lot more LGBTQ+ couples who wanted to hide their identity,” Cardinal said. “You very rarely saw a same-sex couple trying to buy a property together. Typically, only one person would be on the purchase agreement. That changed dramatically in 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all the state bans on same-sex marriage. Now it’s very common for LGBTQ+ couples to purchase a home together. So, there’s no doubt about how far we’ve come.” 


The struggle to find a welcoming home continues 

Of course, the journey from house hunting to closing can still be fraught with outsized stress and apprehension for same-sex couples. Cardinal says his LGTQ+ clients are often intensely concerned about the socio-cultural and pollical fabric of the neighborhoods and communities they are considering. They worry whether they’ll be welcomed and accepted. Or worse, if they’ll be ostracized and treated with derision. But when they turn to him for insights about an area, Cardinal is ethically and legally barred from offering information or opinions. 


“My heart goes out to them, but Fair Housing law rightfully prevents me from advising them. The most I can do is encourage them to do their own research: drive through the neighborhood at different times of day; talk to the neighbors; and get a feel for the community. It’s the best way to make a fully informed decision before making an offer on a home.” 


Living your true life 

Cardinal empathizes with the fears and anxieties of his LGBTQ+ clients, because he himself only came out last year. Although revealing his sexual orientation was at times painful and costly, it was the right thing to do for himself, his friends, and his family. After dealing with these experiences, telling his long-time business associates added another level of risk, he said. 


“When you’re working with somebody that long, you’re not just talking about business, you’re also talking about your life. I never wanted to put any of them in a situation where they’re uncomfortable. Because if it’s not something you talked about in the past, you don’t know what their beliefs are. It’s hard not knowing if they will accept you. There’s a reason that the term ‘in the closet’ still exists. People will hide,” Cardinal said. 


Despite the risks, he stressed that it is important to step out of the shadows and claim one’s own identity. Living in fear is no way to live, he noted. “If people don’t want to be a part of your life anymore because of your sexual orientation, it’s hard to accept but ultimately, it’s about controlling what you can and letting go what you can’t. You only get one life, so you’ve got to live your true life.